Summary: Largely critical book chapter that strikes a need to re-frame humanitarian big data as a complex, socially contextualized artifact. Outlines the promise and peril of gathering collective intelligence (situational awareness), surveillance, and assessing big data from the perspective of the refugee crisis in Europe.
Synthesis: The chapter cites several works that bolster my research agenda of “Information is Humanitarian Aid.” Also addresses some finer points on threat surveillance that stems from how classifications and categories are framed. This issue also gets at post-colonial interpretations of people, places, and events. (See: Winner, Do Artifacts Have Politics? / Bowker and Star, Sorting things out: Classification and its consequences. / Irani, Post-Colonial Computing). The chapter doesn’t engage at all with temporal aspects of big data in crisis context.
Foundational concepts in this study: big data, humanitarian response, socio-political critique
Agreement in related work: Outlines primary problems to resolve regarding the use of big data in humanitarian contexts: dataset size/sample, predictive analytics are contrary to human behavior, and ethical abuses of PII. Chandler (in engaging crisis/disaster scenarios) argues that Big Data may be more appropriately framed as community reflexive knowledge than causal knowledge. That’s an interesting idea.
Contested areas: The shift from INGO emergency response/logistics to state-sponsored, individualized resilience via the private sector seems profound here.
If the goal is to improve rapid/efficient response to those in need, is it necessarily only a dichotomy of top-down institutional action vs private sector/market-driven reaction? Surely, we can do better than this. Data/predictive analytics abuses by the private sector are legion.
Gaps/Limits in this study: The chapter doesn’t engage much with collective intelligence and the process of gathering/assessing large data sets much.
How does social construction vs technological determinism fit here? In what ways are the real traumas suffered by crisis-affected people not being taken into account during the response/relief/resiliency phases?
Connections to my work: crisis informatics, humanitarian response, digital humanitarian response, refugees