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A BIT of Big Data, Little Data, No Data

Despite the media hyperbole about “Big Data,” having the right data is usually better than having more data; little data can be just as valuable as big data. This BIT examines the complex set of relationships between data and scholarly research. In it, Christine Borgman, an often-cited authority on scholarly communication, looks at, among other things, knowledge infrastructures, social and technical aspects of digital scholarship, collaboration and community, open access publishing, and open data.

A BIT of Bleak Houses

The usual history of architecture is a grand narrative of soaring monuments and heroic makers. It rarely acknowledges the personal failures and disappointments of architects. In this BIT, Timothy Brittain-Catlin writes about the losers.

A BIT of Indexing It All

In the modern age, indexes have gone from being explicit professional structures that mediated users and documents to being implicit infrastructural devices used in everyday information and communication acts. In this BIT, Ronald Day examines the use of social “big data” as a technique of neoliberal governance that employs indexing and analytics for purposes of surveillance.

A BIT of Paper Machines

This BIT chronicles the history of the predigital “scholar’s machine”: a box of paper slips that acted both as memory aid and text generator. In it, Markus Krajewski describes the scholar’s box as a form of data protection, tracing its genealogy beginning with peculiar excerption techniques of early nineteenth century scholars.

A BIT of Reality Mining

Big Data is made up of lots of little data: numbers entered into cell phones, addresses entered into GPS devices, visits to websites, and any other activity that leaves a digital trail. Never before has it been easier to collect so much daily data about ourselves.

A BIT of Networked

Social networks, the personalized Internet, and always-on mobile connectivity are transforming—and expanding—social life. In the new social operating system of “networked individualism,” anyone with an Internet connection and a bit of digital literacy can create online content that has the potential to reach a wide audience. This BIT explores how the boundaries between producers and consumers are becoming blurred, with noncredentialed amateurs participating in many of the arenas that were once limited to recognized and sanctioned experts.

A BIT of The Virtual Community

The “virtual community” of online networking is as real as any physical community. In this BIT, “First Citizen of the Internet” Howard Rheingold offers an account of the people who made this networked world possible—“stubborn visionaries who insisted that computers could be used by people other than specialists”—describing pioneers of citizen tool-making that range from a former radar operator who had an epiphany on the way to work in 1950 to crusading programmers, clever MIT hackers, and the creators of Usenet, MUD, and the WELL.

A BIT of Virtual Economies

In the twenty-first-century digital world, virtual goods are sold for real money. Digital game players happily pay for avatars, power-ups, and other game items. But behind every virtual sale there is a virtual economy, simple or complex. This BIT explains that the objectives of virtual economies—providing content, attracting and retaining users, and earning revenues—are often best pursued in unfree (that is, regulated) rather than free markets.

A BIT of Hello Avatar

A crucial aspect of our cultural shift from analog to digital is the continuum between online and off-, the “x-reality” that crosses between the virtual and the real. Our avatars are not just the animated figures that populate our screens but the gestalt of images, text, and multimedia that make up our online identities. In this BIT, B. Coleman looks at the research history in HCI of putting a face on things, the consequences of virtual embodiment, and our perception of simulation.

A BIT of The Second Life Herald

This BIT chronicles the migration of virtual journalist Urizenus Sklar (the avatar of author Peter Ludlow) from The Sims Online to Second Life. Banned from TSO for journalistic truth-telling, Urizenus finds a new home in Second Life, where he and other TSO refugees learn to live in a labor-intensive, richly creative virtual world of resident-created content.

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