An invitation to critical social science of big data: from critical theory and critical research to omniresistance

  • Ulaş Başar GezginEmail author
Open Forum


How a social science of big data would look like? In this article, we exemplify such a social science through a number of cases. We start our discussion with the epistemic qualities of big data. We point out to the fact that contrary to the big data champions, big data is neither new nor a miracle without any error nor reliable and rigorous as assumed by its cheer leaders. Secondly, we identify three types of big data: natural big data, artificial big data and human big data. We present and discuss in what ways they are similar and in what other ways they differ. The assumption of a homogenous big data in fact misleads the relevant discussions. Thirdly, we extended 3 Vs of the big data and add veracity with reference to other researchers and violability which is the current author’s proposal. We explain why the trinity of Vs is insufficient to characterize big data. Instead, a quintinity is proposed. Fourthly, we develop an economic analogy to discuss the notions of data production, data consumption, data colonialism, data activism, data revolution, etc. In this context, undertaking a Marxist approach, we explain what we mean by data fetishism. Fifthly, we reflect on the implications of growing up with big data, offering a new research area which is called as developmental psychology of big data. Finally, we sketch data resistance and the newly proposed notion of omniresistance, i.e. resisting anywhere at any occasion against the big brother watching us anywhere and everywhere.


Philosophy of big data Cognitive science of big data Economics of big data Sociology of big data Psychology of big data Politics of big data 


  1. Ahmed W (2017) Using Twitter as a data source: an overview of social media research tools (updated for 2017). Impact of Social Sciences BlogGoogle Scholar
  2. Andrejevic M (2014) Big data, big questions| the big data divide. Int J Commun 8:1673–1689Google Scholar
  3. Baack S (2015) Datafication and empowerment: how the open data movement re-articulates notions of democracy, participation, and journalism. Big Data Soc 2(2):2053951715594634CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bakir V, Feilzer M, McStay A (2017) Introduction to special theme veillance and transparency: a critical examination of mutual watching in the post-Snowden, Big Data era. Big Data Soc. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bassett K (1999) Is there progress in human geography? The problem of progress in the light of recent work in the philosophy and sociology of science. Prog Hum Geogr 23(1):27–47CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bellamy Foster J, Clark B (2008) The sociology of ecology: ecological organicism versus ecosystem ecology in the social construction of ecological science, 1926–1935. Organ Environ 21(3):311–352CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bond CS, Ahmed OH, Hind M, Thomas B, Hewitt-Taylor J (2013) The conceptual and practical ethical dilemmas of using health discussion board posts as research data. J Med Internet Res 15(6):e112CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. boyd d, Crawford K (2012) Critical questions for big data: provocations for a cultural, technological, and scholarly phenomenon. Inf Commun Soc 15(5):662–679CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Bump A (2015) Your generational identity is a lie. The Washington Post, April 1, 2015. Accessed
  10. Burrows R, Savage M (2014) After the crisis? Big Data and the methodological challenges of empirical sociology. Big Data Soc 1(1):2053951714540280CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Carter CJ, Koene A, Perez E, Statache R, Adolphs S, O’Malley C, McAuley D (2016) Understanding academic attitudes towards the ethical challenges posed by social media research. ACM SIGCAS Comput Soc 45(3):202–210CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Collins R, Restivo S (1983) Development, diversity, and conflict in the sociology of science. Sociol Q 24(2):185–200CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Coté M, Gerbaudo P, Pybus J (2016) Introduction. Politics of big data. Digit Cult Soc 2(2):5–18Google Scholar
  14. Creemers R (2018) China’s social credit system: an evolving practice of control. Accessed 17 Sept 2018
  15. Çulhaoğlu M (2016) Kuşak Sancısı [Generation Pains]. İleri Haber, April 2nd, 2016. Accessed
  16. Dalton CM, Taylor L, Thatcher J (2016) Critical data studies: a dialog on data and space. Big Data Soc 3(1):2053951716648346CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Dencik L, Hintz A, Cable J (2016) Towards data justice? The ambiguity of anti-surveillance resistance in political activism. Big Data Soc 3(2):2053951716679678CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Erdoğan E (2015) Siyasal psikoloji siyasal katılım hakkında ne öğretebilir? Gezi Protestoları’na katılanlar üzerinden bir değerlendirme [What can we learn from political psychology about political participation: a qualitative fieldwork with “Gezi” protestors]. Marmara Üniversitesi Siyasal Bilimler Dergisi 3(1):31–58. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Ernest P (1999) Is mathematics discovered or invented. Philos Math Educ J 12:9–13Google Scholar
  20. Fine K (2012) Mathematics: discovery or invention? Think 11(32):11–27CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Fuchs C (2017) From digital positivism and administrative big data analytics towards critical digital and social media research! Eur J Commun 32(1):37–49CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Fuchs C (2018) “Dear Mr. Neo-Nazi, can you please give me your informed consent so that i can quote your fascist tweet?”: questions of social media research ethics in online ideology critique. Accessed
  23. Gabrys J, Pritchard H, Barratt B (2016) Just good enough data: figuring data citizenships through air pollution sensing and data stories. Big Data Soc 3(2):2053951716679677Google Scholar
  24. Gassel HJ, Horak KH, Schang T, Timmermann W, Fuchs KH, Thiede A (1998) Peritonitis caused by multi-and omniresistant bacterial strains. Surgical and intensive care management. Chir Praxis 54(3):371–377Google Scholar
  25. Gezgin UB (2017) Eleştirel Psikolojide Bir Yolculuk: Marksist Psikolojiden Politik Psikolojiye ve Ötesine [A Journey through Critical Psychology: From Marxist Psychology to Political Psychology and Beyond]. Accessed 17 Sept 2018
  26. Gezgin UB (2018) Marxist psychology—a short introduction. Lambert, Germany.
  27. Gifkins K, Suttor N (2013) Social media, research ethics and your research. Accessed 17 Sept 2018
  28. Gill KS (2013) The Internet of things! then what? AI Soc 28(4):367–371CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Golder S, Ahmed S, Norman G, Booth A (2017) Attitudes toward the ethics of research using social media: a systematic review. J Med Internet Res 19(6):e195CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Gray J, Gerlitz C, Bounegru L (2018) Data infrastructure literacy. Big Data Soc 5(2):2053951718786316CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Houghton S, Lawrence D, Hunter SC, Rosenberg M, Zadow C, Wood L, Shilton T (2018) Reciprocal relationships between trajectories of depressive symptoms and screen media use during adolescence. J Youth Adolesc. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Housley W, Procter R, Edwards A, Burnap P, Williams M, Sloan L, Rana O, Morgan J, Voss A, Greenhill A (2014) Big and broad social data and the sociological imagination: a collaborative response. Big Data Soc 1(2):2053951714545135CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Ju-young H, Yoon-ji K (2013) Factors influencing self-confidence in the maternal role among early postpartum mothers. Korean J Women Health Nurs 19(1):48–56CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Kant I (1781) Critique of pure reason. Cambridge University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  35. Kinder-Kurlanda K, Weller K (2014) I always feel it must be great to be a hacker!: the role of interdisciplinary work in social media research. In: Proceedings of the 2014 ACM conference on web science. ACM, pp 91–98Google Scholar
  36. Kitchin R (2014) Big data, new epistemologies and paradigm shifts. Big Data Soc 1(1):2053951714528481CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Kolikant YBD (2010) Digital natives, better learners? Students’ beliefs about how the Internet influenced their ability to learn. Comput Hum Behav 26(6):1384–1391CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Kuhn TS (2012) The structure of scientific revolutions. University of Chicago Press, ChicagoCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Kuyucu M (2016) The social media generation: social media use in Turkey in the sample of Istanbul. IOSR J Humanit Soc Sci 21(2):84–98Google Scholar
  40. Kvale S (1976) Meanings as data and human technology. Scand J Psychol 17(1):171–180CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Lauricella AR, Cingel DP, Blackwell C, Wartella E, Conway A (2014) The mobile generation: youth and adolescent ownership and use of new media. Commun Res Rep 31(4):357–364CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Lee M, Wright E (2016) Ethical issues in (online) social network research in education. J Cyber Educ 10(1):9–14Google Scholar
  43. Lukoianova T, Rubin VL (2014) Veracity roadmap: is big data objective, truthful and credible? Adv Classif Res Online. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Lyon D (2014) Surveillance, snowden, and big data: capacities, consequences, critique. Big Data Soc 1(2):2053951714541861CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Marengo D, Longobardi C, Fabris MA, Settanni M (2018) Highly-visual social media and internalizing symptoms in adolescence: the mediating role of body image concerns. Comput Hum Behav 82:63–69CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Milan S, Gutiérrez M (2015) Citizens’ media meets big data: the emergence of data activism. Mediaciones 11(14):120–133CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Milan S, Van Der Velden L (2016) The alternative epistemologies of data activism. Digit Cult Soc 2(2):57–74Google Scholar
  48. Mützel S (2015) Facing big data: making sociology relevant. Big Data Soc 2(2):2053951715599179CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Nagl M, Pfausler B, Schmutzhard E, Fille M, Gottardi W (1998) Tolerance and bactericidal action of N-chlorotaurine in a urinary tract infection by an omniresistant Pseudomonas aeruginosa. Zentralblatt für Bakteriologie 288(2):217–223CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Nesi J, Prinstein MJ (2015) Using social media for social comparison and feedback-seeking: gender and popularity moderate associations with depressive symptoms. J Abnorm Child Psychol 43(8):1427–1438CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Rajão R, Jarke J (2018) The materiality of data transparency and the (re) configuration of environmental activism in the Brazilian Amazon. Soc Mov Stud 17(3):318–332CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Reich JA (2015) Old methods and new technologies: social media and shifts in power in qualitative research. Ethnography 16(4):394–415CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Rowlands S, Davies A (2006) Mathematics masterclass: is mathematics discovered or invented? Math Sch 35(2):2–6Google Scholar
  54. Roy J (2014) Open data and open governance in Canada: a critical examination of new opportunities and old tensions. Future Internet 6(3):414–432CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Schrock AR (2016) Civic hacking as data activism and advocacy: a history from publicity to open government data. New Media Soc 18(4):581–599CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Schrock A, Shaffer G (2017) Data ideologies of an interested public: a study of grassroots open government data intermediaries. Big Data Soc 4(1):2053951717690750CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Schroeder R (2014) Big data and the brave new world of social media research. Big Data Soc 1(2):2053951714563194CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Sha XW, Carotti-Sha G (2016) Big data. AI Soc. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Shapiro LAS, Margolin G (2014) Growing up wired: social networking sites and adolescent psychosocial development. Clin Child Fam Psychol Rev 17(1):1–18CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Sharon T, Zandbergen D (2017) From data fetishism to quantifying selves: self-tracking practices and the other values of data. New Media Soc 19(11):1695–1709CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Shilton K, Sayles S (2016) “We Aren’t All Going to Be on the Same Page about Ethics”: ethical practices and challenges in research on digital and social media. In: System sciences (HICSS), 2016 49th Hawaii international conference. IEEE, pp 1909–1918Google Scholar
  62. Thatcher J, O’Sullivan D, Mahmoudi D (2016) Data colonialism through accumulation by dispossession: new metaphors for daily data. Environ Plan D Soc Sp 34(6):990–1006CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Thomas SL, Nafus D, Sherman J (2018) Algorithms as fetish: faith and possibility in algorithmic work. Big Data Soc 5(1):2053951717751552CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Tiggemann M, Slater A (2014) NetTweens: the internet and body image concerns in preteenage girls. J Early Adolesc 34(5):606–620CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Tinati R, Halford S, Carr L, Pope C (2014) Big data: methodological challenges and approaches for sociological analysis. Sociology 48(4):663–681CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Townsend L, Wallace C (2016) Social media research: a guide to ethics. University of Aberdeen, 1–16. Accessed Social media research: a guide to ethics. University of Aberdeen.
  67. Van Dijck J (2014) Datafication, dataism and dataveillance: big data between scientific paradigm and ideology. Surveill Soc 12(2):197–208CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Vossen HG, Valkenburg PM (2016) Do social media foster or curtail adolescents’ empathy? A longitudinal study. Comput Hum Behav 63:118–124CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Weller K, Kinder-Kurlanda K (2014) “I love thinking about ethics!”: Perspectives on ethics in social media research. AoIR Selected Papers of Internet Research, vol 4. Accessed 17 Sept 2018
  70. Xu J, Wang J, Xuan S, Fang G, Tian J, Teng Y (2018) The effects of childbirth age on maternal and infant outcomes in pregnant women. Iran J Public Health 47(6):788–793Google Scholar
  71. Zimiles H (1993) The adoration of “hard data”: a case study of data fetishism in the evaluation of infant day care. Early Child Res Q 8(3):369–385CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag London Ltd., part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Duy Tan UniversityDa NangVietnam

Personalised recommendations