Data Science and Mass Media: Seeking a Hermeneutic Ethics of Information

Proceedings of the Society for Phenomenology and Media, Vol. 15, 2014, Pages 49-58 15 (2014):49-58 (2015)
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In recent years, the growing academic field called “Data Science” has made many promises. On closer inspection, relatively few of these promises have come to fruition. A critique of Data Science from the phenomenological tradition can take many forms. This paper addresses the promise of “participation” in Data Science, taking inspiration from Paul Majkut’s 2000 work in Glimpse, “Empathy’s Impostor: Interactivity and Intersubjectivity,” and some insights from Heidegger’s "The Question Concerning Technology." The description of Data Science provided in the scholarly literature includes “the study of the generalizable extraction of knowledge from data” (Dhar 2013, 64), “data stewardship and data sharing…access to data at higher volumes and more quickly, and the potential for replication and augmentation of existing research” (Hartter et al., 2013, 1), and “personal information, health status, daily activities and shopping preferences that are recorded and used to give us instant feedback and recommendations based on previous online behavior.” (Shin 2013) United States universities have begun to offer graduate programs in “data science”, anticipating the growth of this field for marketing, national security, and health industries. These universities include New York University, Columbia University, Stanford, Northwestern, and Syracuse.

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Christine James
Valdosta State University


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