Interdisciplinary Topics: Data Signs-A Literary History of Information

SOCIOLOGY 470

Data is the quintessential modern commodity form. It is bought and sold, generated and consumed. It drives economies and power struggles. It can inform and empower, and it can surveil and subject. In this course we will trace the history of data by thinking about the stories data can tell as well as the stories people have told about data. We will map the development of its various forms - from bills of mortality during early modern plagues to accounting ledgers, from phone books to the census, from spreadsheets to distributed databases. We will ask how these different modes of representation have shaped our world by faceting it into categories, by quantifying aspects of it into measurable statistics. The massive utility of data is evident. But what are its blindnesses? In what ways does it replicate existing biases and power structures? Conversely, can thinking about data in more nuanced ways empower us and challenge hierarchies based on class, race and gender?
Course Attributes: BU Hum; AS HUM; EN H

Section 01

Interdisciplinary Topics: Data Signs-A Literary History of Information
INSTRUCTOR: Basu
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