Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Big Data and the End of Theory?

An article in The Guardian gives appropriate caution to claims that data analysis (and only data analysis) is the solution for all or even most academic and research problems. As Max Weber observed in  his brilliant essay on objectivity in the social sciences, even the process of data analysis depends on values that cannot be empirically proven as right or wrong: "The 'objectivity' of the social sciences depends [..] on the fact that the empirical data are always related to those value-ideas which alone make them worth knowing and the significance of the empirical data is derived from these value-ideas. But these data can never become the foundation for the empirically impossible proof of the validity of the value-ideas."