Swimming or drowning in the data ocean? Thoughts on the metaphors of big data

thanks to David Grondin for this one on big data and swimming.

This Sociological Life

There is no doubt that there is a current fascination in both popular culture and academic research with big data – the vast quantities of data that are generated from people’s interactions with digital technologies. The term ‘big data’ is appearing with ever-greater frequency in the popular media, government reports, blogs and academic journals and conferences.

The ways in which big digital data are described rhetorically reveal much about their contemporary social and cultural meanings. As Sue Thomas writes in her book Technobiophilia: Nature and Cyberspace, organic metaphors drawn from the natural world have been continually used to describe computer technologies since their emergence. Such natural terms as the web, the cloud, bug, virus, root, mouse and spider have all been employed in attempting to conceptualise and describe these technologies. These metaphors work to render digital technologies more ‘natural’, and therefore as less threatening and alienating. However nature is…

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