Data ex Machina: Introduction to Big Data

David Lazer and Jason Radford
Annual Review of Sociology
2017. 43:19—39
May 17, 2017


Social life increasingly occurs in digital environments and continues to be mediated by digital systems. Big data represents the data being generated by the digitization of social life, which we break down into three domains: digital life, digital traces, and digitalized life. We argue that there is enormous potential in using big data to study a variety of phenomena that remain difficult to observe. However, there are some recurring vulnerabilities that should be addressed. We also outline the role institutions must play in clarifying the ethical rules of the road. Finally, we conclude by pointing to a number of nascent but important trends in the use of big data.

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