Scanning the social brain

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The tools through which people make inquiries about
society are
central to the way they come to understand it and t
he possibility
of harnessing ́big data ́ are currently giving rise
to a set of semi
automated tools that promise new ways to organize s
inquiry. They work by programming algorithms to har
massive amounts of behavioral data on the web and s
ynthesize it
into manageable visualizations of the social. On th
e basis of
interviews and document analyses this paper provide
s an analysis
of the ways in which such visualizations are constr
ucted and
made sense of by project leaders across the areas o
f public
governance, advertizing, military intelligence, str
ategic foresight
and the social sciences. The theoretical framework
of the paper is
grounded in Social Construction of Technology, Acto
Theory and Software Studies in order to focus analy
attention on technological and discursive elements
that are
playing an influential role in the ́productionchai
n ́ behind these
new tools. Looking for similar elements across diff
industries allows for identifying ́core elements ́ t
hat are
inevitably salient when constructing visualizations
. Similarities
in the way these elements are approached will be de
fined as signs
of ́stabilization ́ in the trend of visualizing big
data whereas
elements and approaches that are unique to subsets
of cases and
specific professional cultures will be denoted as ́
flexible add
ons ́ to these core elements. By following the proce
ss of
organizing the meaning and use of these emerging to
ols the paper
intend open up these assemblages and specifically p
onder the
role of algorithms in organizing visibility.
Original languageEnglish
Publication date2012
Publication statusPublished - 2012
Externally publishedYes
Event4S/EASST Conference: Design and Displacement - Copenhagen
Duration: 17 Oct 201220 Oct 2012


Conference4S/EASST Conference

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