Big Data and/versus People Knowledge: On the Ambiguities of Humanistic Research

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterAcademicpeer-review


This chapter argues that the crisis of the university today consists not of its neo-liberalisation, but of the acceleration of the university’s unfinishable mission through an enmeshment and displacement of this mission into technologies of automation like big data tools. It illustrates this argument by looking at the ways in which teaching and research is shaped by big data at a large Dutch university. Big data here signals a profound conundrum in teaching and research, one pivoting around the contradictory claims that big data renders the object of analysis more superficial (unknowable) as well as more penetrable (knowable). This contradiction parallels a fundamental aporia of the Enlightenment enterprise, which institutionalisation deconstructs itself by exposing the limits of its idealism around presumed ‘depth’ and ‘objectivity’. The increasing automation of the university’s mission has therefore exacerbated the ‘auto-immune aspect’ of academia through extensive datafication of staff and student behaviour and output.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationBig Data
Subtitle of host publicationA New Medium?
EditorsNatasha Lushetich
Place of PublicationLondon
Number of pages15
ISBN (Electronic)9780429319556
ISBN (Print)9780367333843
Publication statusPublished - 15 Nov 2020


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