Big Data: Not Always the Nemesis
While searching for online articles that focused on Big Data, I stumbled upon a recent article posted by Greg Satell on Forbes.com titled, “Yes, Big Data Can Solve Real World Problems.” Satell wrote a decidedly positive interpretation of Big Data’s impact on the institutional world and its ability to solve glitches while saving money and time. Satell advocates for increased use of Big Data in the corporate world, financial district, as well as local and state governmental units. This promotist viewpoint is categorically opposite from that of David Golumbia’s in The Cultural Logic of Computation. Golumbia is of the opinion that the computerization of big data for institutional use only serves to further said institution’s power within society. Golumbia takes a decidedly anarchist view of institutional power by going so far as to say that computerization and digitization is really only helping the “conservative” authorities become more powerful, and is more often allowing for a false sense of democratization within society. However, Satrell brings up a few excellent examples for a general good use of big data within the institutional realm.
Many would consider police officers to be proponents of public good and necessary mechanisms for peace-keeping. And most would also say that police officers hold authority and are more conservative than liberal in their policies and actions. Nonetheless, our way of life would be impossible if such authorities did not exist. Satrell discussed new computer systems used by the Memphis Police that use Big Data analytics to follow crime trends and address crime more quickly and more efficiently. Additionally, Detroit police departments now have the ability to tune language processing algorithms to recognize street slang combined with messages left on social media to more successfully predict crime. This system was so effective that it reduced crime by more than 30%, and controversy arose when funding cuts were enacted.
So, yes, it may be true that computerization of big data allows for current authorities to gain even more power. But, not all authorities are “bad” or deceitful or unnecessary. Government police forces are an excellent example of an essential authority that already holds power and is using big data to increase their effectiveness and overall success. Though Golumbia may have a point if one were discussing corrupt governments or authoritarian leaders, it is important to remember that not all those who hold power are crooked. And big data is an excellent, mostly untapped, resource to help further their mutually beneficial goals.