• Maria Cristina PaganoniEmail author


The chapter summarises the critical overview of the big data debate in global news, health and policy discourse and across the public, corporate and academic settings. It illustrates how big data impinges on the entire spectrum of disciplines, from the hard and life sciences to the social sciences and humanities, posing unexplored ethical and methodological issues. The main question is how to accommodate correlation with causation in big data analytics. It argues that the use of big data does not imply the demise of theory, the death of politics or the disappearance of the human subject to whom data custody and stewardship responsibilities are ultimately assigned. Rather, a novel data ethics is seeing the light and with it, a new way of speaking with/of technology.


Big data Data activism Ethics Social sciences 


  1. Borgman, Christine L. 2015. Big Data, Little Data, No Data: Scholarship in the Networked World. Cambridge, MA and London: The MIT Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Chandler, David. 2015. “A World without Causation: Big Data and the Coming of Age of Posthumanism.” Millennium: Journal of International Studies 43, no. 3: 833–851. Scholar
  3. Datactivism. “About.”
  4. Fuchs, Christian. 2017. “From Digital Positivism and Administrative Big Data Analytics towards Critical Digital and Social Media Research!” European Journal of Communication 32, no. 1: 37–49. Scholar
  5. Halford, Susan, and Mike Savage. 2017. “Speaking Sociologically with Big Data: Symphonic Social Science and the Future for Big Data Research.” Sociology 51, no. 6: 1132–1148. Scholar
  6. Hwang, Tim, and Karen Levy. 2015. “‘The Cloud’ and Other Dangerous Metaphors: Contemporary Ideas about Data and Privacy Are Tied Up Inextricably with Language Choices.” Atlantic, 20 January.
  7. Lupton, Deborah. 2014. Digital Sociology. Abingdon and New York: Routledge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Lycett, Mark. 2013. “‘Datafication’: Making Sense of (Big) Data in a Complex World.” European Journal of Information Systems 22, no. 4: 381–386. Scholar
  9. Mah, Alice. 2017. “Environmental Justice in the Age of Big Data: Challenging Toxic Blind Spots of Voice, Speed, and Expertise.” Environmental Sociology 3, no. 2: 122–133. Scholar
  10. Marr, Bernard. 2016. “What Everyone Must Know about Industry 4.0.” Forbes, 20 June.
  11. ———. 2018. “Here’s Why Data Is Not the New Oil.” Forbes, 5 March.
  12. Milan, Stefania. 2017. “Data Activism as the New Frontier of Media Activism.” In Media Activism in the Digital Age, edited by Viktor Pickard and Goubin Yang, 151–163. Abingdon and New York: Routledge. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Puaschunder, Julia M. 2017. “The Nudging Divide in the Digital Big Data Era.” International Journal of Research in Business, Economics and Management 4: 11–12, 49–53.
  14. Puaschunder, Julia M. 2018. “Nudgital: Critique of Behavioral Political Economy.” Proceedings of the 9th International RAIS Conference on Social Sciences and Humanities, 87–117.
  15. Puschmann, Cornelius, and Jean Burgess. 2014. “Big Data, Big Questions| Metaphors of Big Data.” International Journal of Communication 8: 1690–1709.
  16. Reischauer, Georg. 2018. “Industry 4.0 as Policy-Driven Discourse to Institutionalize Innovation Systems in Manufacturing.” Technology Forecasting and Social Change 132, no. C: 27–33. Scholar
  17. van den Boomen, Marianne. 2014. Transcoding the Digital: How Metaphors Matter in New Media. Amsterdam: Institute of Network Cultures. Google Scholar
  18. van Deursen, Alexander J. A. M., and Karen Mossberger. 2018. “Any Thing for Anyone? A New Digital Divide in Internet-of-Things Skills.” Policy & Internet 10, no. 2: 122–140. Scholar
  19. Watson, Sara M. 2014. “Data Is the New ‘____’: Sara M. Watson on the Industrial Metaphor of Big Data.” DIS.
  20. ———. 2016. “Toward a Constructive Technology Criticism.” Tow Center for Digital Journalism White Papers. New York: Columbia University.

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Dipartimento di Scienze della Mediazione Linguistica e di Studi InterculturaliUniversità degli Studi di MilanoMilanItaly

Personalised recommendations