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Uncertain Archives: Approaching the Unknowns, Errors and Vulnerabilities of Big Data through Cultural Theories of the Archive

Agostinho, D; D'Ignazio, C; Ring, A; Thylstrup, N; Veel, K; (2019) Uncertain Archives: Approaching the Unknowns, Errors and Vulnerabilities of Big Data through Cultural Theories of the Archive. Surveillance and Society , 17 (3/4) pp. 422-441. 10.24908/ss.v17i3/4.12330. Green open access

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Abstract

We are surrounded by digital apparatuses that continuously capture, process, and archive social and material information: from global search engines to local smart cities; from public health monitoring to personal self-tracking. Although the use of big data emerged from the human desire to acquire and master more information and knowledge and to eliminate human error in large-scale information management, it has become clear in recent years that big data technologies bring with them new and crucial uncertainties in the form of new biases, systemic errors and, as a result, new ethical challenges which require urgent attention and analysis. This article addresses these uncertainties through cultural theories of the archive, arguing that big data presents our contemporary era with a number of pressing archival uncertainties. By focusing on the notions of the unknown, error, and vulnerability, respectively, we tune in on three types of uncertainty that overlap and intertwine, yet also reveal different configurations of archival uncertainty, which we regard as central to the understanding of conditions of the digitally networked data archives that have become a crucial component of the cultures of surveillance and governmentality today.

Type: Article
Title: Uncertain Archives: Approaching the Unknowns, Errors and Vulnerabilities of Big Data through Cultural Theories of the Archive
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.24908/ss.v17i3/4.12330
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.24908/ss.v17i3/4.12330
Language: English
Additional information: This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of Arts and Humanities
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of Arts and Humanities > SELCS
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10079567
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