Introduction

Introduction James Dorson, Freie Universität Berlin Regina Schober, University of Mannheim In recent years, technology and business writers have stumbled over each other to show how new technologies in data collection and management are revolutionizing our lives. The claim in Viktor Mayer-Schönberger’s and Kenneth Cukier’s bestselling book, Big Data: A Revolution That Will Transform How We Work, Think, and Live (2013)—that “the world of big data is poised to shake up everything from businesses and the sciences to healthcare, government, education, economics, the humanities, and every other aspect of society” (11)—is but one example of the great expectations resting on recent developments in computation and informatics. But if the technology behind the big data revolution is new, the idea behind it is not. There is an uncanny resemblance between claims made on behalf of big data and those made by naturalist fiction more than a century ago. What the influential MIT computer scientist Alex Pentland in Social Physics (2014) calls “living laboratories”—i.e., the use of social data obtained through mobile devices and sensors to “watch human organizations evolve on a microsecond-by-microsecond basis” (121)—echoes the Sekundenstil (second-by-second style) of German naturalists like Arno Holz seeking to describe every detail of http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Studies in American Naturalism University of Nebraska Press

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University of Nebraska Press
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Copyright © University of Nebraska Press
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1944-6519
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Abstract

James Dorson, Freie Universität Berlin Regina Schober, University of Mannheim In recent years, technology and business writers have stumbled over each other to show how new technologies in data collection and management are revolutionizing our lives. The claim in Viktor Mayer-Schönberger’s and Kenneth Cukier’s bestselling book, Big Data: A Revolution That Will Transform How We Work, Think, and Live (2013)—that “the world of big data is poised to shake up everything from businesses and the sciences to healthcare, government, education, economics, the humanities, and every other aspect of society” (11)—is but one example of the great expectations resting on recent developments in computation and informatics. But if the technology behind the big data revolution is new, the idea behind it is not. There is an uncanny resemblance between claims made on behalf of big data and those made by naturalist fiction more than a century ago. What the influential MIT computer scientist Alex Pentland in Social Physics (2014) calls “living laboratories”—i.e., the use of social data obtained through mobile devices and sensors to “watch human organizations evolve on a microsecond-by-microsecond basis” (121)—echoes the Sekundenstil (second-by-second style) of German naturalists like Arno Holz seeking to describe every detail of

Journal

Studies in American NaturalismUniversity of Nebraska Press

Published: Nov 3, 2017

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