Datification: the ideology that says that data isn't ideological

Originally published at: http://boingboing.net/2016/12/21/datification-the-ideology-tha.html


Gonna remember that one…although it reads better than spoken.


The best statement I’ve found of this problem (which is widespread, goes deep beneath a great deal of science, and probably goes back to Plato) is from Deirdre McCloskey’s “If You’re So Smart: The Narrative of Economic Expertise”:

It is pretty clear that an economist, like a poet, uses metaphors. They are called “models”. The market for apartments in New York, says the economist, is “just like” a curve on a blackboard. No one has so far seen a literal demand curve floating in the sky above Manhattan. It’s a metaphor.


Ugh, poorly controlled leading “research” reminds me of Sociology classes and papers on “Why people aren’t interested in alternative medicine” that just always seem to match the person’s biases

of course people don’t go for alt-med solutions because they’re poorly educated and fed lies by the media and fearful “science” because what do doctors know anyway…


ZARDOZ speaks to you!


[quote=“doctorow, post:1, topic:91557”]
I’m a great believer that criticism need not offer solutions…[/quote]
Headline: Datification
Article body: Datafication
Tag: Datafiction

Pick one!


Then there’s the Laffer Curve.

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Conversations about “democracy” are a specific, poignant example of this. Since the result of a vote cannot be wrong, doing the wrong thing must be the right thing if people vote for it. This constitutes “upholding Enlightenment values”, apparently.

PS. As a point of interest, I assume “Cennydd” is just the Welsh spelling of “Kenneth”, though I guess it’s still technically rude to make pronoun assumptions anyway.

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Not sure if intentional or typo.

I :heart: my dog
I :spades: my cat
I :clubs: my seal


Being in a matesprit relationship with your dog is understandable.
A kismesis relationship with your cat makes even more sense.

I don’t get being the auspistice of a seal, though.

Yes, I got the pun.


That’s a simile, not a metaphor.


A simile is a type of metaphor.

Yeah, well, that’s just like your opinion, man.


The difference being is that economical models, unlike metaphors, are predictive. If you crank through them they tell you the future with a certain amount of certainty.

The problem with economics is when the models repeatedly fail in the most spectacular ways, nobody changed them. If the physicist turned on LHC and custard began to flow out, you may be assured they’d sit down for a good think about the Standard Model.


I’m sorry, what precisely are you advocating for? That votes only count if they are pre-determined to be ‘right’ by…? Who? The Dear Leader? The Committee on the Prevention of Sin and Promotion of Virtue? The casting of bones? You, personally?

The ‘wrong’ and the ‘right’ thing are not a matter that’s settled and not under dispute and, therefore, everyone can agree on what the right thing is. If that was the case, true, we wouldn’t need to decide on policy. We’d just do the obvious right thing or not do the obvious wrong thing and call it good. Since we can’t agree, democracy is a method to manufacture agreement so that we can get on with doing things and to do so without the usual historical methods of manufacturing agreement, viz. torture, executions, civil war, and mass death.

“Datafication” is a version of the old philosophy of science problem: the theory-laden nature of facts. Plus a hefty dash of the related practical problem of operationalisation in experimental design.

What we see is affected by what we think. That’s true in a literal neuroscience-of-vision way, and it’s also true in science in general.

You should have a good long think about this one, and maybe read some Paul Feyerband, but: a metaphor is also predictive, that’s why we use them. To some extent we are just describing the shape of human understanding, which necessarily trades in approximations of reality.

Every model system (including the LHC) is constantly churning out custard, and at any given moment someone is sitting down to reconsider the Standard model. Unfortunately the units of certainty are measured in the spongy space of grey matter; it is entirely subjective when you have had too much custard.


That’s true. Not everyone agrees that genocide is wrong, or unrestrained pollution, or people starving in time of plenty. But they are wrong, and if you know that, then putting any of those questions to a vote can only be a step backwards. It’s completely legitimate – indeed, it’s fundamental to the design – that elected representatives should defend their moral certainties regardless of what voters think.

The way our society is supposed to work is that first good public servants make themselves available, and then you use voting as a safety valve to ensure they govern with the people’s consent. “Democracy” is a shorthand for this, but we’ve come to take that so literally that we think voting itself generates good government, which is close to the opposite of what (e.g.) the framers of the US constitution meant.

If British Members of Parliament were serious about their oath to defend the interests of the UK, then Brexit wouldn’t happen (since the majority of them know it to be a shitty idea). If the Republican party didn’t see themselves as merely a rubber stamp, they wouldn’t have handed their accumulated credibility to someone they knew to be a flat-out 360° piece of shit argh.

I’m not saying anyone should take away people’s right to vote for UKIP, or for Turmp as an independent. I’m saying that once you’re elected the point is to insert your own judgment, and not just abdicate responsibility to the next expression of the public whim. Otherwise we’re just constantly voting for voting, in a feedback loop that amplifies the background noise of random trolls into a rising unbearable shriek of pointless idiocy is all I’m saying.


You forgot “I [diamond] my baby” (sorry, too sleepy to find the icon)