Information: Keywords

Just out from Columbia University Press Information: Keywords, edited by Michele Kennerly, Samuel Frederick, and Jonathan Abel. With chapters on algorithm, archive, cognition, index, keyword, and more, this volume has some brilliant scholars, including Katherine Hayles, Dan Rosenberg, Bernard Dionysius Geoghagen, Wolf Kittler, and several more. I wrote the chapter on “Knowledge”:

In the “Unreasonable Effectiveness of Data,” published in 2009, three Google researchers encouraged fellow scholars in natural language processing to forgo “elegant theories,” “elaborate models,” and complex rules, and to simply follow the data. Given the increasing availability of highly structured data on the web, they suggest scholars interested in designing translation algorithms, for example, should move away from earlier concerns with hand-coded grammars, ontologies, and logic-based expert systems and take advantage of the structure already in the data. Data analysis could replace endless efforts to find linguistic rules and encode them into machines. The exhortations of the Google researchers echoed, although in less exaggerated tones, a similar injunction issued by Wired magazine’s Chris Anderson a year earlier. Announcing the advent of what he called the “Petabyte Age,” he declared that big data and applied mathematics would replace “every theory of human behavior, from linguistics to sociology. Forget taxonomy, ontology, and psychology. Who knows why people do what they do? The point is that the numbers speak for themselves.” Humans finally have the tools to mine not just data but knowledge, to extract it from the earth like any other inert resource.

You can read the full chapter (PDF) here:

chad wellmon

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