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The Data Revolution

The Data Revolution
Big Data, Open Data, Data Infrastructures and Their Consequences

Other Titles in:
Sociology (General)

August 2014 | 240 pages | SAGE Publications Ltd
"Carefully distinguishing between big data and open data, and exploring various data infrastructures, Kitchin vividly illustrates how the data landscape is rapidly changing and calls for a revolution in how we think about data."
- Evelyn Ruppert, Goldsmiths, University of London

"Deconstructs the hype around the ‘data revolution’ to carefully guide us through the histories and the futures of ‘big data.’ The book skilfully engages with debates from across the humanities, social sciences, and sciences in order to produce a critical account of how data are enmeshed into enormous social, economic, and political changes that are taking place."
- Mark Graham, University of Oxford

Traditionally, data has been a scarce commodity which, given its value, has been either jealously guarded or expensively traded.  In recent years, technological developments and political lobbying have turned this position on its head. Data now flow as a deep and wide torrent, are low in cost and supported by robust infrastructures, and are increasingly open and accessible. 

A data revolution is underway, one that is already reshaping how knowledge is produced, business conducted, and governance enacted, as well as raising many questions concerning surveillance, privacy, security, profiling, social sorting, and intellectual property rights. 

In contrast to the hype and hubris of much media and business coverage, The Data Revolution provides a synoptic and critical analysis of the emerging data landscape.  Accessible in style, the book provides:
  • A synoptic overview of big data, open data and data infrastructures
  • An introduction to thinking conceptually about data, data infrastructures, data analytics and data markets
  • Acritical discussion of the technical shortcomings and the social, political and ethical consequences of the data revolution
  • An analysis of the implications of the data revolution to academic, business and government practices
Chapter 1: Conceptualising Data
What are data?

Kinds of data

Data, information, knowledge, wisdom

Framing data

Thinking critically about databases and data infrastructures

Data assemblages and the data revolution

Chapter 2: Small Data, Data Infrastructures and Data Brokers
Data holdings, data archives and data infrastructures

Rationale for research data infrastructures

The challenges of building data infrastructures

The challenges of building data infrastructuresData brokers and markets

Chapter 3: Open and Linked Data
Open data

Linked data

The case for open data

The economics of open data

Concerns with respect to opening data

Chapter 4: Big Data


Resolution and indexicality





Chapter 5: Enablers and Sources of Big Data
The enablers of big data

Sources of big data

Directed Data

Automated data

Volunteered data

Chapter 6: Data Analytics

Machine learning

Data mining and pattern recognition

Data visualisation and visual analytics

Statistical analysis

Prediction, simulation and optimization

Chapter 7: The Governmental and Business Rationale for Big Data
Governing people

Managing organisations

Leveraging value and producing capital

Creating better places

Chapter 8: The Reframing of Science, Social Science and Humanities Research
The fourth paradigm in science?

The re-emergence of empiricism

The fallacies of empiricism

Data-driven science

Computational social sciences and digital humanities

Chapter 9: Technical and Organisational Issues
Deserts and deluges


Data quality, veracity and lineage

Data integration and interoperability

Poor analysis and ecological fallacies

Skills and human resourcing

Chapter 10: Ethical, Political, Social and Legal Concerns
Data shadows and dataveillance


Data security

Profiling, social sorting and redlining

Secondary uses, control creep and anticipatory governance

Modes of governance and technological lock-ins

Chapter 11: Making Sense of the Data Revolution
Understanding data and the data revolution

Researching data assemblages

Final thoughts


Kitchin’s latest book invites the reader to think critically and conceptually about data. [...] The clear and measured writing style and logical progression of the chapters directs the reader through a balanced discussion of the so-called data revolution. The book is well referenced with in-text citations and an extensive reference list with which to seek further reading. This fact, along with its accessible style, lucid prose, and comprehensive coverage of diverse topics that the data revolution brings to light, make it a valuable text for anyone working within this area.

Jonathan Cinnamon, University of Exter
Environment and Planning B: Planning and Design

Published in 2014, this is an ideal guide to the essentials of what is DATA; what we are currently doing with it that is fundamentally different than in the past; and finally speculation and ramifications of both BIG and OPEN DATA for information systems. Broken into several chapters... it occurs to me that this is the perfect outline for a complete overhaul of a DATA Lecture I’ve tried to sandwich between Intro to Vector and Raster Model Lectures! Often Introductory GIS courses really don’t consider Geo Data in depth; much less DATA itself as a stand-alone lecture topic; so this is a bit of a unorthodox approach, but one whose time I think has come.

Rob Kitchin, The Data Revolution: Big Data, Open Data, Data Infrastructures and Their Consequences has that Ground Truth level of impact feeling to it, and I strongly urge anyone with an interest in geospatial technologies, GIS, mapping, data, cartography, mashups, and related topics to read this book. Could easily be justified as the #1 book for the year.

Place Memes

A sober, nuanced and inspiring guide to big data with the highest signal to noise ratio of any book in the field.

Matthew Fuller, Centre for Cultural Studies
Goldsmiths, University of London

One of the key contributions of this book is its thorough analysis of popular and prevalent discourses around big and open data, and subsequent reflections on the limitations of these conceptualizations... Ultimately, this book is useful for anyone with an interest in the present and future of scholarly research and the role of new technologies in shaping the discourses and practices of such work, and is almost sure to spur considerable future research into these pressing issues.

Taylor Shelton, Graduate School of Geography, Clark University
Progress in Physical Geography

This is a path-breaking book. Rob Kitchin has long been one of the leading figures in the conceptualisation and analysis of new forms of data, software and code. This book represents an important step-forward in our understanding of big data. It provides a grounded discussion of big data, explains why they matter and provides us with a framework to analyse their social presence. Anyone who wants to obtain a critical, conceptually honed and analytically refined perspective on new forms of data should read this book.

David Beer, Senior Lecturer in Sociology
University of York

Rob Kitchin’s timely, clear, and vital book provides a much needed critical framework. He explains that our ontologies of data, or how we understand what data are; our epistemologies of data, or how we conceive of data as units of truth, fact, or knowledge; our analytic methodologies, or the techniques we use to process that data; and our data apparatuses and institutions, or the tools and (often huge, heavy, and expensive) infrastructures we use to sort and store that data, are all entwined. And all have profound political, economic, and cultural implications that we can’t risk ignoring as we’re led into our “smart,” data-driven future.

Shannon Mattern, Faculty, School of Media Studies
The New School

Kitchin paints a nuanced and complex picture of the unfolding data landscape. Through a critique of the deepening technocratic, often corporate led, development of our increasingly data driven societies, he presents an alternative perspective which illuminates the contested, and contestable, nature of this acutely political and social terrain.

Jo Bates, Information School
University of Sheffield

The Data Revolution has that Ground Truth-level of impact feeling to it, and I strongly urge anyone with an interest in geospatial technologies, GIS, mapping, data, cartography, mashups, and related topics to read this book.  Could easily be justified as the #1 book for the year

Gwilym Eades
Place Memes

Kitchin’s The Data Revolution is essential reading for anyone dealing with data. It is an extremely well informed and reflective book that is comprehensive in scope.  Kitchin convincingly argues how data analysis is always imbued with prior knowledge, assumptions about causation, and interpretations based on these. … I hope you will findThe Data Revolution to be a useful recommendation for your own, and your students’, reading lists

Bettina Berendt
Debunking Bad Big Data Science

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