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The Data Revolution


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Table of Contents

Chapter 1: Conceptualising Data What are data? Kinds of data Data, information, knowledge, wisdom Framing data Thinking critically about databases and data infrastructures Data assemblages and the data revolution Chapter 2: Small Data, Data Infrastructures and Data Brokers Data holdings, data archives and data infrastructures Rationale for research data infrastructures The challenges of building data infrastructures The challenges of building data infrastructuresData brokers and markets Chapter 3: Open and Linked Data Open data Linked data The case for open data The economics of open data Concerns with respect to opening data Chapter 4: Big Data Volume Exhaustive Resolution and indexicality Relationality Velocity Variety Flexibility Chapter 5: Enablers and Sources of Big Data The enablers of big data Sources of big data Directed Data Automated data Volunteered data Chapter 6: Data Analytics Pre-analytics Machine learning Data mining and pattern recognition Data visualisation and visual analytics Statistical analysis Prediction, simulation and optimization Chapter 7: The Governmental and Business Rationale for Big Data Governing people Managing organisations Leveraging value and producing capital Creating better places Chapter 8: The Reframing of Science, Social Science and Humanities Research The fourth paradigm in science? The re-emergence of empiricism The fallacies of empiricism Data-driven science Computational social sciences and digital humanities Chapter 9: Technical and Organisational Issues Deserts and deluges Access Data quality, veracity and lineage Data integration and interoperability Poor analysis and ecological fallacies Skills and human resourcing Chapter 10: Ethical, Political, Social and Legal Concerns Data shadows and dataveillance Privacy Data security Profiling, social sorting and redlining Secondary uses, control creep and anticipatory governance Modes of governance and technological lock-ins Chapter 11: Making Sense of the Data Revolution Understanding data and the data revolution Researching data assemblages Final thoughts

About the Author

Rob Kitchin is a Professor in Maynooth University Social Sciences Institute and Department of Geography. He was a European Research Council Advanced Investigator on the Programmable City project (2013-2018) and a principal investigator on the Building City Dashboards project (2016-2020) and for the Digital Repository of Ireland (2009-2017). He is the (co)author or (co)editor of 31 other academic books, and (co)author of over 200 articles and book chapters. He has been an editor of Dialogues in Human Geography, Progress in Human Geography and Social and Cultural Geography, and was the co-Editor-in-Chief of the International Encyclopedia of Human Geography. He was the 2013 recipient of the Royal Irish Academy's Gold Medal for the Social Sciences.


Kitchin's powerful, authoritative work deconstructs the hype around the 'data revolution' to carefully guide us through the histories and the futures of 'big data.' The book skilfully engages with debates from across the humanities, social sciences, and sciences in order to produce a critical account of how data are enmeshed into enormous social, economic, and political changes that are taking place. It challenges us to rethink data, information and knowledge by asking - who benefits and who might be left out; what these changes mean for ethics, economy, surveillance, society, politics; and ultimately, whether big data offer answers to big questions. By tackling the promises and potentials as well as the perils and pitfalls of our data revolution, Kitchin shows us that data doesn't just reflect the world, but also changes it. -- Dr Mark Graham
With a lucid prose and without hyperbole, Kitchin explains the complexities and disruptive effects of what he calls 'the data revolution'. The book brilliantly provides an overview of the shifting socio-technical assemblages that are shaping the uses of data today. Carefully distinguishing between big data and open data, and exploring various data infrastructures, Kitchin vividly illustrates how the data landscape is rapidly changing and calls for a revolution in how we think about data. -- Evelyn Ruppert

An incredibly well written and accessible book which provides readers who will be curious about the buzz around the idea of big data with: (a) an organising framework rooted in social theory (important given the dominance of technical writings) through which to conceptualise big data; (b) detailed understandings of each actant in the various data assemblages with fresh and novel theoretical constructions and typologies of each actant; (c) the contours of a critical examination of big data (whose interests does it serve, where, how and why). These are all crucial developments its seems to me and I think this book will become a trail blazer because of them. This is going to be a biggie citation wise and a seminal work.

-- Mark Boyle

Data has become a new key word for our times. This is just the book I have been waiting for: a detailed and critical analysis that will make us think carefully about how data participate in social, cultural and spatial relations.

-- Deborah Lupton
By carefully analysing data as a complex socio-technical assemblage, Rob Kitchin discusses thought-provoking aspects of data as a technical, economic and social construct that are often ignored or forgotten despite the increasing focus on data production and usage in contemporary life. This book unpacks the complexity of data as elements of knowledge production, and not only provide readers from a variety of disciplinary areas with useful conceptual framings, but also with a challenging set of open issues to be further explored and engaged with as the "data revolution" progresses. -- Luigina Ciolfi

A timely intervention of critical reflection into the hyperbolic and fast-paced developments in the gathering, analysis and workings of 'big data'. This excellent book diagnoses the technical, ethical and scientific challenges raised by the data revolution, sounding a clarion for critical reflections on the promise and problematic of the data revolution.

-- Sam Kinsley

Much talk of big data is big hype. Different phenomena dumped together, a dearth of definitions and little discussion of the complex relationships that give rise to and shape big data practices sums it up. Rob Kitchin puts us in his debt by cutting through the cant and offering not only a clear analysis of the range, power and limits of big data assemblages but a pointer to the crucial social, political and ethical issues to which we should urgently attend. Read this book.

-- David Lyon

Data matter and have matter, and Rob Kitchin thickens this understanding by assembling the philosophical, social scientific, and popular media accounts of our data-based living. That the give and take of data is increasingly significant to the everyday has been the mainstay of Kitchin's long and significant contribution to a critical technology studies. In The Data Revolution, he yet again implores us to think beyond the polemical, to signal a new generation of responsive and responsible data work. Importantly, he reminds us of the non-inevitability of data, articulating the registers within which interventions can and already are being made. Kitchin offers a manual, a set of operating instructions, to better grasp and grapple with the complexities of the coming world, of such a 'data revolution'.

-- Matthew W. Wilson
The Data Revolution is one of the first systematic attempts to strip back the hype surrounding our current data deluge and take stock of what is really going on... The book acts as a helpful wayfinding device in an unfamiliar terrain, which is still being reshaped, and is admirably written in a language relevant to social scientists, comprehensible to policy makers and accessible even to the less tech savvy among us.... The Data Revolution's main success lies in clearing a space - cutting out the conjecture and gloss, the Utopians and the reactionaries pulling in different directions - and locating a common ground from which to build something.

Read the full review on the Theory, Culture & Society blog. -- David Moats
Kitchin's The Data Revolution is absolutely recommendable and provides a sober account of the interaction between society and big data. Kitchin avoids the hubris and speculation often found in literature about big data to focus on big data's logic. [It] would serve as [an] ideal book in introductory graduate courses that deal with data and information in any capacity. -- Andrew J. Iliadis
Kitchin's latest book invites the reader to think critically and conceptually about data. [...] The clear and measured writing style and logical progression of the chapters directs the reader through a balanced discussion of the so-called data revolution. The book is well referenced with in-text citations and an extensive reference list with which to seek further reading. This fact, along with its accessible style, lucid prose, and comprehensive coverage of diverse topics that the data revolution brings to light, make it a valuable text for anyone working within this area. -- Jonathan Cinnamon, University of Exter

Published in 2014, this is an ideal guide to the essentials of what is DATA; what we are currently doing with it that is fundamentally different than in the past; and finally speculation and ramifications of both BIG and OPEN DATA for information systems. Broken into several chapters... it occurs to me that this is the perfect outline for a complete overhaul of a DATA Lecture I've tried to sandwich between Intro to Vector and Raster Model Lectures! Often Introductory GIS courses really don't consider Geo Data in depth; much less DATA itself as a stand-alone lecture topic; so this is a bit of a unorthodox approach, but one whose time I think has come.

Rob Kitchin, The Data Revolution: Big Data, Open Data, Data Infrastructures and Their Consequences has that Ground Truth level of impact feeling to it, and I strongly urge anyone with an interest in geospatial technologies, GIS, mapping, data, cartography, mashups, and related topics to read this book. Could easily be justified as the #1 book for the year. -- Place Memes
A sober, nuanced and inspiring guide to big data with the highest signal to noise ratio of any book in the field. -- Matthew Fuller, Centre for Cultural Studies
One of the key contributions of this book is its thorough analysis of popular and prevalent discourses around big and open data, and subsequent reflections on the limitations of these conceptualizations... Ultimately, this book is useful for anyone with an interest in the present and future of scholarly research and the role of new technologies in shaping the discourses and practices of such work, and is almost sure to spur considerable future research into these pressing issues. -- Taylor Shelton, Graduate School of Geography, Clark University
This is a path-breaking book. Rob Kitchin has long been one of the leading figures in the conceptualisation and analysis of new forms of data, software and code. This book represents an important step-forward in our understanding of big data. It provides a grounded discussion of big data, explains why they matter and provides us with a framework to analyse their social presence. Anyone who wants to obtain a critical, conceptually honed and analytically refined perspective on new forms of data should read this book. -- David Beer, Senior Lecturer in Sociology
Rob Kitchin's timely, clear, and vital book provides a much needed critical framework. He explains that our ontologies of data, or how we understand what data are; our epistemologies of data, or how we conceive of data as units of truth, fact, or knowledge; our analytic methodologies, or the techniques we use to process that data; and our data apparatuses and institutions, or the tools and (often huge, heavy, and expensive) infrastructures we use to sort and store that data, are all entwined. And all have profound political, economic, and cultural implications that we can't risk ignoring as we're led into our "smart," data-driven future. -- Shannon Mattern, Faculty, School of Media Studies
Kitchin paints a nuanced and complex picture of the unfolding data landscape. Through a critique of the deepening technocratic, often corporate led, development of our increasingly data driven societies, he presents an alternative perspective which illuminates the contested, and contestable, nature of this acutely political and social terrain. -- Jo Bates, Information School
The Data Revolution has that Ground Truth-level of impact feeling to it, and I strongly urge anyone with an interest in geospatial technologies, GIS, mapping, data, cartography, mashups, and related topics to read this book. Could easily be justified as the #1 book for the year -- Gwilym Eades
Kitchin's The Data Revolution is essential reading for anyone dealing with data. It is an extremely well informed and reflective book that is comprehensive in scope. Kitchin convincingly argues how data analysis is always imbued with prior knowledge, assumptions about causation, and interpretations based on these. ... I hope you will findThe Data Revolution to be a useful recommendation for your own, and your students', reading lists -- Bettina Berendt
Scholars new and old in CSCW will benefit from Kitchin's in-depth examination of the many facets of long-term and emerging research in data studies. ... The Data Revolution as a volume aims to parse the landscape of big data as more than a hubristic and hype-driven rhetorical realm, but rather one that is critically framed and examined. Here Kitchin succeeds and offers an easily readable volume that draws on and complements the work of this journal. Readers immersed in data studies will find many well-known points succinctly presented. For those less familiar with such work this is an excellent introduction -- Drew Paine
Rob Kitchin's latest book is an important addition to the emerging field of critical data studies, in that itmanages to both make a clear, convincing and reasonably detailed case for why it is necessary to lookcritically at what data are-and, just as crucially, what they do in the world-and provide stimulatinginsights and suggestions for further research in this area. -- Francesca Menichelli, University of Cambridge
This is an exemplary scholarly book: smart, objective, clear, concise, well informed, rich in insights, and thought provoking. Definitely the best 'general' overview of big data I have seen so far. -- Cristian Suteanu, Saint Mary's University, Halifax, NS, Canada
Professor Rob Kitchin's overview of "the data revolution" is the best monograph we have discovered on open and big data. It defines the issues of open and big data and the potential consequences of the data revolution. In a balanced way, and without the hyperbole of trade press books on big data, Kitchin explains that the data revolution has implications for governance, management of business, and even understanding of science and knowledge. -- Chris Hoofnagle, Berkeley Law, University of California
The purpose of this excellent book is to prove how these [big] data do not exist independently from the ideas, techniques, technologies, people and contexts that produce, process, manage, analyze and store them. Moreover, the author explores the definition, characteristics and the techniques to manage big data, but he also focuses his attention on the challenges of this way of thinking and on how big data are changing existing epistemology and science. -- Barbara Martini

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