Big Data, new epistemologies and paradigm shifts

Kitchin, Rob (2014) Big Data, new epistemologies and paradigm shifts. Big Data & Society, 1 (1). pp. 1-12.

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This article examines how the availability of Big Data, coupled with new data analytics, challenges established epistemol- ogies across the sciences, social sciences and humanities, and assesses the extent to which they are engendering para- digm shifts across multiple disciplines. In particular, it critically explores new forms of empiricism that declare ‘the end of theory’, the creation of data-driven rather than knowledge-driven science, and the development of digital humanities and computational social sciences that propose radically different ways to make sense of culture, history, economy and society. It is argued that: (1) Big Data and new data analytics are disruptive innovations which are reconfiguring in many instances how research is conducted; and (2) there is an urgent need for wider critical reflection within the academy on the epistemological implications of the unfolding data revolution, a task that has barely begun to be tackled despite the rapid changes in research practices presently taking place. After critically reviewing emerging epistemological positions, it is contended that a potentially fruitful approach would be the development of a situated, reflexive and contextually nuanced epistemology.

Item Type: Article
Keywords: Big Data; data analytics; epistemology; paradigms; end of theory; data-driven science; digital humanities; computational social sciences;
Academic Unit: Faculty of Social Sciences > Geography
Faculty of Social Sciences > Research Institutes > National Institute for Regional and Spatial analysis, NIRSA
Item ID: 5364
Identification Number: 10.1177/2053951714528481
Depositing User: Prof. Rob Kitchin
Date Deposited: 04 Sep 2014 15:25
Journal or Publication Title: Big Data & Society
Publisher: SAGE Publications (UK and US)
Refereed: Yes

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