14th Social Study of ICTs Workshop

The Allure of Big Data

Friday 25th April 2014, Wolfson Theatre, New Academic Building, LSE

The aim of the workshop is to open up and critically approach the developments subsumed under the label of Big Data. Much of the ongoing debate underscores the opportunities to make informed decisions on the basis of inferences, drawn from large pools of data generated in the global digital ecosystem. But there may be good reasons to wonder whether these developments signal a change of larger proportions. Big Data reinforces a characteristically modern reliance on quantified techniques of decision-making, while producing timely outputs that enable continuous evaluation and (re)action. However, the increasing reliance on quantitative descriptions of reality that Big Data promotes is often predicated on data of a particular kind, quality and coverage. 

Data produced in the global digital ecosystem reflects a miscellaneous array of motives and practices that contrast rather sharply with the purposeful, systematic, structured and often expertise-based activities through which corporations and the state have generated data. Much of what is subsumed under the label of Big Data is, in fact, the outcome of large, shifting and transient online crowds (often referred to as social data) whose internet whereabouts captured as data reinsert the messy contingencies of everyday living and personal pursuits at the heart of public and institutional life. In this workshop we will discuss how developments in Big Data perturb established boundaries and refigure a great deal of social practices along with the prevailing relations of power, surveillance and accountability.

Keynote Speaker: Theodore M Porter (UCLA)

Autonomous Information: Antecedents and Consequences of Big Data

In the internet age, the production and management of data has become exciting, again. And yet, like several generations of information technologies, this one has depended on the production of boring routines. It is easy to overlook the historic significance of paper forms, filing systems, and index cards, of tabular and then graphical representation, of the technologies of census, sampling, and measurement of uncertainty. As early as 1830, the “avalanche of numbers,” encouraged the idea that we might act effectively without understanding or explaining, giving shape to the modern alchemy of transforming data into evidence. Data and statistics have become integral to an ambition to act and choose automatically, without hypothesis and even apart from human understanding. But some problems never go away, first of all the impediments to seamless standardization. To categorize, count, and calculate depends on the fabrication of homogeneity, sometimes through manufacturing technologies, but often by means of informational ones. It has not proved possible to banish those fields of tragic mismeasurement and spaces of exploitable ambiguity which continue, for better and worse, to undermine our best-laid plans in such arenas as medicine, education, and finance.

Book your place

Registration is required. Due to limited space in the theatre, places will be allocated on a first-come, first-served basis. Download a registration form|.

Conference Organiser:

  • Jannis Kallinikos, Professor and Head of  Group, Information Systems and Innovation Group, Department of Management, LSE

Conference Administrator:

  • Fran White, Research Coordinator, Information Systems and Innovation Group, Department of Management, LSE


SSIT 14 Programme
 09.00 Registration - coffee
09.30 Welcome and Introduction, Prof George Gaskell, Pro-Director, LSE

Workshop Outline

Prof Jannis Kallinikos, Information Systems and Innovation Group, Department of Management, LSE


Keynote Speech by Prof Theodore Porter, UCLA, Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin

Autonomous Information: Antecedents and Consequences of Big Data

 11.15  Coffee Break
 11.30 The Myth of Big Data: Challenges for Hermeneutic Social Science

Prof Nick Couldry, Department of Media and Communication, LSE

 12.30  Lunch Break

Panel on 'Big Data and Innovation'

Chaired by Dr Carsten Sorensen, ISI Group, Department of Management, LSE


Al Bhimani, Department of Accounting, LSE,

Dr. Leon Michael Caesarius, Department of Business Studies, Uppsala University, Sweden,

Louis Fernandes, Director, Market Development, SAS

Prof Youngjin Yoo, Fox Business School, Temple University, US

 15.30 Coffee Break

Social Data as Medical Facts: Web-based Practices of Expert Knowledge Creation

Professor Jannis Kallinikos and Niccolo Tempini (PhD Candidate), Information Systems and Innovation Group, Department of Management, LSE

 17.00 Techniques of Abstraction: Big Data in an Ecology of Practices

Prof Matthew Fuller, Centre for Cultural Studies, Goldsmiths College

Dr Andrew Goffey, Faculty of Arts, University of Nottingham

Prof Adrian Mackenzie, Department of Sociology, Lancaster University

 18.00 Workshop Close.  Followed by evening reception, 8th Floor, New Academic Building

Download the programme| (PDF 75KB)

SSIT Open Research Forum

Thursday 24th April 2014 - click here for details.|

  New Academic Building stairs