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International Conference Harder, better, faster, stronger? Philosophical investigations into Big Data

25 February | Room 203 | 14h00 - 19h00

International Conference
Harder, better, faster, stronger? Philosophical investigations into Big Data
University of Porto, 25th February 2015

Big data


14h15 | Opening Address

14h30-15h15 | Marta Severo and Alberto Romele
Big Data, Hard Data, and Soft Data. An epistemological Introduction for the Perplexed

15h15-16h00 | Antonio Machuco
Data Mining, Search and Network Theory

16h00-16h15 | Coffee Break

16h15-17h00 | Robert Clowes
Big Data, Cognitive Penetration and the Extended Mind

17h00-17h45 | Jos de Mul
Big Data, Small People, and the Hive Mind. An Evolutionary Look at the Information Society

17h45 | Conclusion

20h00 | Conference Dinner

In the last years, a great attention has been directed to the possibilities offered by new technologies for treating complex and large data sets that could not be treated with traditional methods and tools. The first reactions among experts, commentators, and the public has been enthusiastic. In 2008, Chris Anderson, former editor-in-chief of Wired magazine, announced "The end of theory". According to him, faced with massive data, the traditional approach to science is becoming obsolete: "We can stop looking for models. We can analyze the data without hypotheses about what it might show". The strongest proof of the efficacy of Big Data treatment appeared to be the Google Flu Trends, a service that uses aggregated Google search data to estimate current flu activities (Ginsberg et al., 2009). In the last three years, however, there has been a more critical attitude towards the topic. In 2011, danah boyd and Kate Crawford launched "Six Provocations for Big Data". For them, it is imperative that we begin asking critical questions about what all this data means, who gets access to it, how it is deployed, and to what ends. "With Big Data come big responsibilities", they said, and they stressed that social and cultural studies can play an important role in this sense. David Lazer, the first author of a 2009 article on computational social sciences, has recently described the "Parable of Google Flu" and "the traps in Big Data analysis".
Now, it is surprising that philosophy is still not playing a role in all this. Several philosophers, especially in France, the Netherlands, U.S., and U.K., are currently orienting their attention to the impact of ICTs on human private and social life (Bachimont, 2010; de Mul, 2011; Rouvroy, 2013; Floridi, 2014). But still very few of them have been concerned with the specific topic of Big Data. In this conference, Big Data will be philosophically treated from two different perspectives. The first part of the conference will be devoted to the epistemology of Big Data, i.e. to determine their specificity in respect with classical methodologies in human and social sciences. The second half of the conference will treat the anthropological, existential, and ontological consequences of Big Data analysis, both from a continental and analytic point of view.

Alberto Romele, post-doc, University of Porto
Research Group Aesthetics, Politics and Knowledge
Instituto de Filosofia (UI&D 502)
Faculdade de Letras da Universidade do Porto
Via Panorâmica s/n
4150-564 Porto
Tel. 22 607 71 80
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