MIT Tech Review: The Problem with our Data Obsession

Brian Bergstein of the MIT Technology Review published a provocative piece called “The Problem with Our Data Obsession” about what the “techno-utopian” naive idealism open data misses, and in particular what it potentially sacrifices.  He claims

we are too often [… ] opting to publish more information to increase transparency even if it undermines principles such as privacy or civic involvement.

Surprisingly, he cites Larry Lessig, who is, of course, well known to be an ardent supporter  of various kinds of open-ness, from open access to Creative Commons and beyond, as having argued that publishing data openly may have detrimental effects as well, such as during political races,  In particular, he says that having more data about politicians can risk misleading people and making people cynical rather than promoting greater civic engagement.

The high order bits of this argument, I believe, is that while raw data can be revealing, the key is in its interpretation, and just as written or spoken word can be (mis-) interpreted  and (mis-) appropriated, data can be used for a large variety of purposes and intentions as well. As we achieve a greater data literacy, we can look to making such interpretability and context more obvious and deliberate, so that people can make their own independent subjective interpretation of published open data.

See article: “The Problem with Our Data Obsession” –


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