8 thoughts on “Will Big Data eclipse Anthropology? You decide.”

  1. Interesting. Have you compared this with any other term trackers (like Google Trends, which I know you’ve made use of a lot in the past)? Though I’m inclined to agree with Carlen that big data and anthropology are attempting to answer different questions, or at least, the same question from different angles.

  2. I looked at Google Trends – looks very similar.
    Google n-grams however, looks very different, with big data showing growth if you map it singly, but flatlining (at effectively zero) when compared with anthropology.

    I’d venture also that there is probably already as much money being spent on big data than on anthropology…

  3. FWIW, I think that Big Data is just a handmaiden of cultural anthropology in the end. Meaning is what matter, big data is a tool – perhaps it is better compared with ethnography? But I’m not going to get sucked into that – back to work for me…

  4. John, very interesting, thanks. Yes, clearly the truth is going to be, as it often, is somewhere in between. I suggested a mutually exclusive approach for purposes of provocation and because this Google Trends read out makes such a darn dramatic visualization. Which will be part of the problem for those of us undertaking the rapprochement. The ethnographic data almost never creates visualizations this, er, visual.

  5. I do think we’re heading in that direction. I genuinely believe that anthropology is not easy to grasp. Not easy to sell (within an organization). Not easy to stand behind. And so businesses take the easy way out – more data. More trends.

    Anthropologists play a very important and specific role in the world of business. The best service we can do ourselves is to use big data to our advantage, to showcase cultural trends, and movements in the way people think. Just my 2 cents.

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