Simondon and Big Data

Date

2015-04-27

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Article

Peer reviewed

Yes

Abstract

This article explores some limitations of the claims made for Big Data, particularly in the work of Alex Pentland, as providing a universal method for understanding and managing the social. It does so by analysing Pentland’s social physics in the light of the work of Gilbert Simondon. It argues that Pentland’s social theory is essentially cybernetic and thus open to Simondon’s criticisms of this schema of understanding. Additionally, it questions the way social physics leads to the development of hypertelic social structures; its lack of ability for theorizing invention, teleology and open systems; and queries the social ontology it has developed. Simondon's reformed notion of information, situated as it is, between determinism and indeterminism, may not disagree with Pentland’s claim that “we're going to reinvent what it means to have a human society,” but understands the nature of this claim in a radically different way. Where Pentland’s work points towards yet another phase of the control revolution, this article asserts that it misses the more important question of how it theorizes indeterminacy and omits consideration of the transindividual as a mode of the social.

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Keywords

Gilbert Simondon, Big Data, cybernetics, social physics, Alex Pentland

Citation

Mills, S. (2015) Simondon and Big Data. Platform: Journal of Media and Communication, 6: pp. 59-72

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Research Institute

Media and Communication Research Centre (MCRC)