'Calculability, quantification, datafication'

I recently noted that datafication has a Wikipedia article. This is another term for a phenomenon I usually speak of as quantification, following Ritzer and Rescher. I figured I should start keeping a list of related terms and uses; if you’ve encounter a similar term, please leave it in the comments. If nothing else, this could be used to improve the Wikipedia articles.

For enlightenment, anything which does not conform to the standard of calculability and utility must be viewed with suspicion. (AdornoHorkheimer 1979, p. 3)

Calculability or quantity rather than quality: Quality is notoriously difficult to evaluate. How do we assess the quality of a hamburger, or physician, or a student? Instead of even trying, in an increasing number of cases, a rational society seeks to develop a series of quantifiable measures that it takes as surrogates for quality. This urge to quantify has given great impetus to the development of the computer and has, in turn, been spurred by the widespread use and increasing sophistication of the computer. (Ritzer 1983, p. 103)

Synopsis: (1) Measurement is more than a matter of mere quantification; only in special cases do quantities actually measure something. (2) Quantification in and of itself is no guarantor of objectivity. And actual measurements, though indeed sufficient for objectivity, is certainly not necessary to it. Objectivity, after all, does not require quantification. (Rescher 1997, “Objectivity”, p. 75)

The Regime of Computation, then, provides a narrative that accounts for the evolution of the universe, life, mind, and mind reflecting on mind by connecting these emergences with computational processes that operate both in human-created simulations and in the universe understood as software running on the “Universal Computer” we call reality. This is the larger context in which code aquires special, indeed universal, significance. In the Regime of Computation, code is understood as the discourse system that mirrors what happens in nature and that generates nature itself. (Hayles 2005, “My Mother Was a Computer”, p. 27)

This book is not about computers. It is instead about a set of widespread contemporary beliefs about computers [computationaism]—beliefs that can be hard to see as such because of their ubiquity and because of the power of computers themselves. More specifically, it is about the methods computers use to operate, methods referred to generally as computation. Computation—as metaphor, method, and organizing fram—occupies a privileged and under-analyzed role in our culture. Influential new concepts often emerge alongside technological shifts—they emerged alongside the shifts to steam power, electricity, and television, for example (see, e.g., Marvin 1988). (Golumbia 2009, p. 1)

Given this massive scale, it is tempting to understand big data solely in terms of size. But that would be misleading. Big data is also characterized by the ability to render into data many aspects of the world that have never been quantified before; call it “datafication.” For example, location has been datafied, first with the invention of longitude and latitude, and more recently with GPS satellite systems. Words are treated as data when computers mine centuries’ worth of books. Even friendships and “likes” are datafied, via Facebook. (CukierMayer-Schoenberger2013rbd)

However compelling some examples of applied Big Data research, the ideology of dataism shows characteristics of a widespread belief in the objective quantification and potential tracking of all kinds of human behavior and sociality through online media technologies. Besides, dataism also involves trust in the (institutional) agents that collect, interpret, and share (meta)data culled from social media, internet platforms, and other communication technologies. (VanDijk2014ddd, p. 198)

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