Deconstructive Software Studies: Toward an Ethics of the Unforseeable in the Age of Big Data

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    It is widely acknowledged that today we live in the age of digitality: software, big data, cloud computing and the Internet of Things are only a few ways in which digital technologies are deeply affecting our lives, the way we think, our relationships with others and our conception of ourselves. The extensive use of ever larger quantities of data and the growing reliance on algorithms to analyze them and to make decisions also raise urgent ethical issues, such as those concerning privacy, surveillance, the right to be forgotten, security, censorship, filtering and content control, the commodification of the so-called ‘quantified self’ and even information warfare.
    In this article I take a phenomenological and deconstructive approach to the ethics of big data in order to begin tackling some of these problems. I argue that big data cannot be fully understood by remaining within the conceptual framework of instrumentality. Drawing on the philosophical tradition of ‘originary technicity’ I argue that software escapes those explanatory narratives that still oppose the social and the technical, the organic and the machinic, the natural and the artificial (often with the aim of reducing one term of the opposition to the other) and I suggest that software should be thought of as a constant, unstoppable and never entirely predictable process of material self-differentiation that involves both the technical and the human. Drawing on a number of examples I also explore in what way such a philosophical approach could contribute to answering ethical concerns regarding big data.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationPhilosophy after Computation
    EditorsDavid Berry, Beatrice Fazi
    PublisherOpen Humanities
    Publication statusSubmitted - 10 Nov 2019


    • Philosophy of Technology
    • Computation
    • Software Studies
    • media studies

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