Research Cluster: Big Data and Science Studies

Big data

Led By:

  • Matthew JonesJames R. Barker Professor of Contemporary Civilization

Big Data and Science Studies brings together the new tools and techniques of large-scale digital humanities with the critical resources of science studies. The cluster connects the development of superior digital tools, and the care required in using them, to a critical historical and sociological account of the development of big data. This cluster focuses on the history and the social, political and ethical ramifications of data mining and big data. It connects historians, anthropologists, sociologists, legal scholars and journalists from Columbia and the broader metropolitan community.

The cluster additionally provides a focal point for reflecting utilization of the new tools of the digital humanities within science studies, and thereby build upon and extend exciting new initiatives at Columbia, including the University’s growing Digital Humanities and Digital Social Science centers, and the Institute for Data Science (IDS). The cluster undertakes research projects, develop curriculum, and offer international workshops along both axes.

Current central research foci of the cluster include the history of data mining, from 1990-2010; the National Security Agency, Total Information Awareness and the history of big data; and “Digital Leibniz,” a project of topic modeling and network analysis of a late Renaissance polymath. Members of this cluster are deeply involved in crafting new courses at the intersection of the humanities and computing, including “Computing in Context,” developed with Adam Cannon and Julia Herschberg of Columbia’s Computer Science department, and Dennis Tenen of English; “Data and Databases,” developed as part of the Lede Program, Columbia School of Journalism; and “The Information Revolution,” a new lecture course designed to rethink how the history of computing from Babbage to the present is taught. Interested students are strongly encouraged to participate in new programs, such as the Lede initiative that provides students in the humanities with fundamental training in the data sciences.

The cluster will be hosting "Towards a History of Artificial Intelligence," a workshop at Columbia University in May 2019 for scholars and graduate students. Together, the group will revisit major narratives centered on the UK and US, while incorporating a global story of AI, which has often been told predominantly in an Anglo-American framework, and to draw together a capacious range of methodological approaches, kinds of histories, and historians.

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