The Social Complexity of Big Data

On the Limits of Naturalism in a Digital World. Odycceus Workshop at Ca' Foscari, Venice. January 29-30, 2018.


In the last week of January, we met in Venice for a workshop titled “The Social Complexity of Big Data: On the Limits of Naturalism in a Digital World”.


The aim of the workshop was to revisit some fundamental questions of the social sciences in the new era of digital data, and in particular the implications of how we can think about complexity in the social world. We observed that Big Data seems to have generated a pressing need for meta-theory among those with method – and for method for those with meta-theory. This seems to imply the need to bridge the divide between metatheory and social scientific practice.


To help bridge this gap, we invited a diverse group of prominent scholars to revisit old questions of social ontology in the light of a new reality. What are the possibilities of social scientific knowledge and the limits of naturalism in our new digital world?


The invited lecturers included professor emeritus David Byrne of Durham University, professor Lasse Gerrits of University of Bamberg, professor Brian Castellani of Kent State University, Dr. Emma Uprichard of University of Warwick, Professor Adrian MacKenzie of Lancaster University, and Dr. Flaminio Squazzoni of Università degli Studi di Brescia.


The workshop not only triggered new ideas for future articles, but also new contacts and possibilities for collaboration between separate research communities.