Scholars and scientists who study the world around us are comfortable with seeing regularity in the systems they examine. However, most of us are less eager to see our own actions as formulaic. As humans, we largely believe that we have agency and free will, and that we use this to pursue our scientific and scholarly ends. However, the big data push in the last few years and algorithmic, data-driven, and computational approaches to research have often been touted as ways to generate theory-free knowledge: we should just let the data speak for themselves. In this talk, we will discuss the extent to which big data is automating academic research, and the consequences this will have for scholars.
Eric T. Meyer is Professor of Social Informatics at the University of Oxford and Director of Graduate Studies for the Oxford Internet Institute. His research looks at the changing nature of knowledge creation in science, medicine, social science, arts, and humanities as technology is embedded in everyday practices. His 2015 book (with Ralph Schroeder) Knowledge Machines: Digital Transformations of the Sciences and Humanities examines these shifts in detail. For more information, please visit https://www.oii.ox.ac.uk/people/eric-meyer/.