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CfP – Calculated Spaces: small data, big data, open data and data infrastructures

2015 Conference of Irish Geographers (CIG)

Queens University Belfast, 21-24 May 2015.

Themed session:

Calculated Spaces: small data, big data, open data and data infrastructures

The promise of big and open data and data infrastructures is for greater evidence based decision making, informed policy, and efficient management.  As mobile devices, wearables, UAVs/Drones, webcams, and sensors become more accessible and distributed in terms of cost, size and useability, it is assumed, that the ‘neutral facts’ derived from these ‘democratized technologies’ will lead to the production of objective and politically neutral models of places and spaces.  Also, combining these data with those collected by GPS, satellite and radar with transaction (i.e. loyalty & swipe cards) and social media data and with framework data such as street networks or political boundaries, will lead to the perfect calculated model of the world.  Finally, there is the dream of cloud storage liberating the data from geography with ‘free’ and ‘open’ platforms yet geo-fencing persists.

We hope submissions will include critically reflections on some of the following: the ‘politically neutral’ production of objective space, technological determinism, data driven managerialism, the social shaping effects of technology and data, technocratic governance, and data assemblages (Kitchin 2014).  Also, on the implications of algorithmic, mathematic and geometric modelling of spaces and places, social physics, the ontologies of ontologies (Hacking 2012), the politics of portals and 3rd party platforms and the geopolitics of data storage and global infrastructures.  Also how do small, data, and open data and data infrastructures transduce spaces and places (Kitchin, 2014, Dalton and Thatcher 2014, Kitchin and Lauriault 2014).  The objective of this session is therefore to interrogate the epistemological and ontological issues raised by data and infrastructures and to discuss their social, ethical, legal and political implications.

We welcome papers that explore the above and some of the following questions:

  1. Has the proliferation of data and related infrastructures led to more technocratic forms of governance, managerialism and predictive governance?
  2. Have VGI, counter mapping, citizen science and participatory mapping been critically reflexive about the technologies used to collect the data they produce?  Are these truly democratic and objective processes?
  3. While we become better at counting, classifying, sharing, archiving and visualizing, and are offered platforms to do so what kind of spaces and places are we creating?
  4. How to balance the instrumental use of data collection technologies, which inform science while also normalize sousveillance, dataveillance, and surveillance?
  5. How might data and their related data collection technologies contribute to sustainability, resilience and planning?
  6. Is it possible to balance commercialization, public good, and ethics with big data, open data and data infrastructures?

Potential contributors should liaise with the session organiser prior to submission of their abstract on the conference website.  Contact email: Tracey.Lauriault@NUIM.ie

The CIG is organized by The Geographical Society of Ireland and the School of Geography, Archaeology and Palaeoecology, and will be held at Queens University Belfast are delighted to host the 47th Conference of Irish Geographers that will take place 21-24 May 2015.

All sessions are listed in this PDF Document:

New paper: Small data, data infrastructures and big data

The first Programmable City Working Paper has been published on SSRN, written by Rob Kitchin and Tracey P. Lauriault, and concerns the relationship between small and big data, the scaling-up of small data into data infrastructures, and how to conceptualize and make sense of such infrastructures.

Small data, data infrastructures and big data

The production of academic knowledge has progressed for the past few centuries using small data studies characterized by sampled data generated to answer specific questions.  It is a strategy that has been remarkably successful, enabling the sciences, social sciences and humanities to advance in leaps and bounds.  This approach is presently being challenged by the development of big data.  Small data studies will, however, continue to be important in the future because of their utility in answering targeted queries.  Nevertheless, small data are being made more big data-like through the development of new data infrastructures that pool, scale and link small data in order to create larger datasets, encourage sharing and re-use, and open them up to combination with big data and analysis using big data analytics.  This paper examines the logic and value of small data studies, their relationship to emerging big data and data science, and the implications of scaling small data into data infrastructures, with a focus on spatial data examples.  The final section provides a framework for conceptualizing and making sense of data and data infrastructures.

Key words: big data, small data, data infrastructures, data politics, spatial data infrastructures, cyber-infrastructures, epistemology

Download the paper