Jan R. Riebling

The Medium Data Problem in Social Science

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This chapter argues that many of the problems associated with ›Big Data‹ in the social sciences cannot be addressed adequately through actual Big Data methodologies and technical frameworks. The reason for this is their focus on horizontal scaling and real-time computation. It is posited that the actual problems faced by social scientists often stem from the complex and process-generated nature of certain datasets. The general problem of dealing with non-survey data is often confounded with the issues surrounding Big Data. It is proposed that problems of this sort should be identified and discussed as ›Medium Data‹ problems. Thereby making room for a more focused discussion on the reasons behind this as well as possible solutions. In order to gain a fuller understanding of Medium Data the specific problems are showcased on three levels: data management, methods and research ethics. A broader definition of data, fostering of digital literacy and a more informed ethical discourse are discussed as possible solutions to the problem of Medium Data.