Review: Big Data, Little Data, No Data – Scholarship in the Networked World

5 Star, Decision-Making & Decision-Support, Information Operations, Information Society, Intelligence (Public), Intelligence (Wealth of Networks)
Amazon Page
Amazon Page

Christine L. Borgman

5 Stars Major Contribution with Some Oversights

This book is extremely well-developed and and a major contribution, not least because it it one of the best explorations of information ecologies that are vastly more intricate and cover vastly more time, energy, and locational space, than most realize. It was recommended to me by Stephen E. Arnold, my most trusted IT advisor and author of the book not sold on Amazon, CyberOSINT: Next Generation Information Access.

Another major value of the book is its centrality to the choices of Amazon's erudite readers. Here are ten other books — culled from thirty — that are being bought by buyers of this book. What this really means is that we are at the very beginning of breaking out of a very lazy insular academic system (citation cabals, Elsevier controls, only 1% of written papers being published, mono-lingual research, etcetera), and migrating ever so slowly toward a World Brain in which all minds are connected to all information in all languages and mediums all the time. These other ten books are also recommended, with the caveat that they are at best the 3rd grade level in relation to where we can and must go.

01 Cataloging the World: Paul Otlet and the Birth of the Information Age
02 Indexing It All: The Subject in the Age of Documentation, Information, and Data
03 Data-ism: The Revolution Transforming Decision Making, Consumer Behavior, and Almost Everything Else
04 “Raw Data” Is an Oxymoron (Infrastructures)
05 Beyond Bibliometrics: Harnessing Multidimensional Indicators of Scholarly Impact
06 The Expert Library: Staffing, Sustaining, and Advancing The Academic Library in The 21st Century
07 The Data Revolution: Big Data, Open Data, Data Infrastructures and Their Consequences
08 The Black Box Society: The Secret Algorithms That Control Money and Information
09 Obfuscation: A User's Guide for Privacy and Protest
10 Truth: Philosophy in Transit

The last selection is my own, not culled from group-think. All of my non-fiction reviews across 98 categories can be found at Phi Beta Iota the Public Intelligence Blog, via the Reviews page.

I disagree with the author about the need to make massive investments in knowledge infrastructure. The weakness of the book — a weakness that pales in relation to its larger value — is a lack of understanding of where information technology is going and particularly open source information technology. There are over 60 “opens” that have been grouped into nine main open sub-categories at the Peer to Peer (P2P) Foundation page Open Source Everything, all of them data intensive:

01 Open Data
02 Open Governance
03 Open Health
04 Open Infrastructures
05 Open Intelligence
06 Open Manufacturing
07 Open Provisioning
08 Open Software
09 Open Space

Open Data — with much work still to be done, includes Open Geospatial also known as Open Geo, Open Anthropology, Open History, Open Language, Shallow Web, Deep Web, Dark Web. In dealing with data we must be acutely conscious of the fact that less than 1% of archived digital big data is actually processed (Mary Meeker, 2014), and less than 4% of the Internet is indexed (Google, 2014). Add to that the fact that roughly 90% of what we need to know is not in English, not online, and not “visible” to academics or government bureaucrats or merchants from their air-conditioned cubicles, and you get a sense of my larger concern.

In relation to information technology, we are now beyond Open Software and Open Hardware and moving rapidly to the intersection of Open Cloud, OpenGeo, Open Standards, and Open Spectrum. The mesh network by-passing Internet Service Providers complicit in government interception, is emergent. Commercial search is an abysmal failure, compounded by commercial fraud — Volkswagon's long-standing crime would have been quickly caught had their software been open source — similarly Oracle's and others dismal security protocols would be quickly revealed and fixed if they were not using proprietary code to avoid accountability.

One final observation: scholarship is in severe disrepute with the avant guarde who now see rote learning as a Stone Age construct. Scholarship is only but one of the eight data tribes — the others are civil society (including labor unions and religions), business especially small business, government especially local, law enforcement, media, military, and non-government/non-profit. Whatever knowledge infrastructure we develop must recognize that all eight tribes have to able to share information and make sense together across all boundaries; and that education, intelligence (decision-support) and research must embrace holistic analytics, true cost economics, and open source everything engineering as their shared foundation going forward. There is no government, no bank, no corporation, and no university today — I single out Stanford, whose President probably never saw my email — doing this today. Needed are an Open Source Agency, a World Brain Institute, a School of Future-Oriented Hybrid Governance, and a United Nations Open-Source Decision-Support Information Network (UNODIN). In twenty years of seeking a university president or a government vice president (see my open letter to Biden) interested in creating a Smart Nation, I have failed. I dare to hope this new book suggests that the rest of the world is waking up to the possibilities.

Best wishes to all,
Robert David STEELE Vivas
INTELLIGENCE FOR EARTH: Clarity, Diversity, Integrity, & Sustainability

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