Social data is problematic … #bigdata #socialdata #digitalresearch

[…]  It is important, furthermore, to understand that this contextual paradox of research between transparent communication and platform obfuscation is not just limited to what kind of data is accessible. Data itself, from a critical perspective, is a problematic concept: should it be seen as a faithful representation of human behaviour or as a dehumanized recording that artificially parcels out existence into quantifiable bits? As we said above, corporate social media do not simply transmit communication among users, they transform it and impose specific logic on it. To borrow from Lawrence Lessig (2006), the platform’s code imposes specific regulations, or laws, on social acts. The consequence of this is that corporate social media give the impression that they merely render social acts visible, whereas in fact they are in the process of constructing a specific techno-social world. For instance, while I can ‘like’ something on Facebook and have ‘friends’, I cannot dislike, or hate or be bored by something and have enemies or people that are very vague acquaintances. The seeming social transparency that is the promise of corporate social media is a construct: the platform imposes its own logic, and in the case of Facebook, this logic is one of constant connectivity. The promise that social media data is in the first place a transparent trace of human behaviour is thus false: what data reveals is the articulation of participatory and corporate logics. As such, any claim to examine a pre-existing social through social media is thus flawed. Thus, in studying modes of participatory culture on corporate social media platforms we encounter two main challenges: one concerning access to data and the ethics of data research, the other data itself and what it claims to stand for […. p 9-10]


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Cosimo Accoto

Research Affiliate at MIT | Author "Il Mondo Ex Machina" (Egea) | Philosopher-in-Residence | Business Innovation Advisor |

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