Distracted by Data

What we risk by hyper-focusing on “data” as a problem to solve

We still don’t have a good answer to this fundamental question — “what is data?”

It’s not for lack of trying to define it. The number of “data as ____” metaphors proliferates daily, with some of the more commonly-cited examples including “data as oil,” “data as property,” “data as water,” “data as labor,” and “data as nuclear waste,” and the list goes on. I most recently heard a computer programmer at MIT propose a “data as a vector” metaphor (based on the notion of vector data, having a starting point, duration, and directionality).

The more I think about it (and I think about this a lot), the more I land on a new metaphor — data as a red herring. Data is so difficult to define that it often keeps us paralyzed, and unable to act. After all, we cannot realistically govern or regulate something we cannot define. But maybe this is part of the strategy. What if it’s not about the data? What if this focus on “data” is just a red herring?

Read More at Berkman Klein Center

Read the rest at Berkman Klein Center