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Symphonic Social Science and the Future for Big Data Analytics

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RMIT University

Council Chamber, Building 1, LaTrobe Street, Melbourne

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Recent years have seen persistent tension between proponents of big data analytics on the one hand - using new forms of digital data to make computational and statistical claims about ‘the social’ - and, on the other hand (many_ social scientists who sceptical about the value of big data, its associated methods and claims to knowledge. This talk seeks to move beyond this, taking inspiration from a mode of argumentation developed by some of the most successful social science books of all time: Bowling Alone (Putnam 2000). The Spirit Level (Wilkinson and Pickett 2009) and Capital (Piketty 2014). Taken together these works can be distinguished as a new approach, that can be labelled as ‘symphonic social science’. This bears both striking similarities and significant differences to the big data paradigm and – as such – offers the potential to do big data analytics differently. This offers value to those already working with big data – for whom the difficulties of making useful and sustainable claims about the social are increasingly apparent – and to social scientists, offering a mode of practice that might shape big data analytics for the future.

Susan Halford is a Professor of Sociology, Director of the Web Science Institute and co-Director of the Web Science Centre for Doctoral Training. She was a founding Director of the University's Work Futures Research Centre and has 30 years’ experience of research on organizational change, including digital innovation, employee driven innovation and the voluntary workforce. Her most recent research focuses on semantic linked data, digital methods for social media research and ethical practice with new forms of digital data. In 2014 her article on the semantic web (with Catherine Pope and Mark Weal) was awarded the British Sociological Association/SAGE prize for innovation and excellence in the journal Sociology. Susan is a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.

http://www.southampton.ac.uk/socsci/about/staff/sjh3.page

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RMIT University

Council Chamber, Building 1, LaTrobe Street, Melbourne

Australia

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