I usually only write a maximum of two blog posts per week, but I had to extend that to a third blog post this week so as not to have a huge backlog of stuff to write about. This, the third blog post is, very appropriately about the third paper I co-authored for the second workshop on "Computing within Limits" (and that was submitted almost two weeks ago).
I was the fourth author of a paper titled "Whose future is it anyway?: Limits within Policy Modeling" and the other authors were Somya Joshi, Teresa Cerratto Pargman and Adreas Gazis.
The paper argues that politicians and policymakers have fallen in love with Big Data, or rather, with (the "extra everything" concept) Big Open Linked Data (BOLD). Visions of the future and planning for the future assume continued economic growth (etc.) and BOLD has for some become a crystal ball or a magic wand that will assure that these things will indeed happen. "In this paper we are particularly interested in the myth of increased quality, objectivity and truth that emerges from the introduction of BOLD within policy modeling." Alternative visions (for example of economic non-growth) are not contemplated or even imagined.
In the age of Big Open Linked Data (BOLD), we inhabit a landscape where future scenarios are imagined, modeled, planned for and embedded in policy. Between the euphoric techno-utopian rhetoric of the boundless potential of BOLD innovations and the dystopian view of the dangers of such innovations (e.g. ubiquitous surveillance etc.), this paper offers a critical understanding of the boundaries that are traversed by the implementation of BOLD within policy modeling. We examine BOLD as a tool for imagining futures, for reducing uncertainties, for providing legitimacy and for concentrating power. In doing so we further develop the LIMITs community’s conceptualization of the societal limitations on computing, with specific reference to the assumptions, interpretations and trust that we place in these models when making socio-environmental policy decisions. We use an illustrative case of policy modeling, which provides a much-needed critical discussion of the inherent limitations and risks as well as the promises that are offered by BOLD.