Laws of Unintended Consequence

There are many and varied reasons to be worried about Brexit: exiting the single market, inflaming tensions at the Irish border, and sacrificing hard-won international prestige for short-lived, punch-drunk national pride, to name a few. But one of the less discussed but just as potentially damaging consequences of leaving the EU concerns the impact on the cross-border sharing of personal data …

Read more at Medium.

Fight or flight?

It’s now been ten days since Donald Trump was elected president, and the words still don’t seem all that believable. Perhaps it will take seeing Trump raise that tiny right hand of his – the one he employed to mock a disabled reporter – and “grab” the Bible with his sinister left, before the words “President Trump” are made podgy, sunbed-ridden flesh in front of our eyes.

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Generation Boom

One of my most formative experiences was an upper school trip to the battlefields of France and Belgium. Amidst all the stories of carnage and destruction, and the unfathomable numbers of casualties involved, what struck me above all else was the sheer proximity of the respective front lines. In some places a mere hundred yards might separate the two groups of young European men, conscripted to throw grenades and fire rifles at each other across the small parcel of scorched earth between them.

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Review: Michael Moore’s war of hearts and minds

The title of Michael Moore’s latest documentary, Where to Invade Next, seems to reflect ambivalence on the part of its creator. It is after all no coincidence that Moore’s trio of breakout box office hits — Bowling for Columbine, Fahrenheit 9/11, and Sicko — appeared during the administration of his antagonist-in-chief, George W. Bush. Though no one would pretend that mass shootings have subsided since the release of Bowling for Columbine, the election of President Obama saw the formal end of the Iraq War and the passing of health care reform — the subjects of Fahrenheit 9/11 and Sicko, respectively. The working title of Moore’s latest project might as well have been, What To Tackle Next? …

Read more at MIT’s The Tech.

Causation, Correlation, and Big Data in Social Science Research

Cowls, Josh and Schroeder, Ralph (2015) Causation, Correlation, and Big Data in Social Science Research. Policy & Internet 7 (4), 447-472.

The emergence of big data offers not only a potential boon for social scientific inquiry, but also raises distinct epistemological issues for this new area of research. Drawing on interviews conducted with researchers at the forefront of big data research, we offer insight into questions of causal versus correlational research, the use of inductive methods, and the utility of theory in the big data age. While our interviewees acknowledge challenges posed by the emergence of big data approaches, they reassert the importance of fundamental tenets of social science research such as establishing causality and drawing on existing theory. They also discussed more pragmatic issues, such as collaboration between researchers from different fields, and the utility of mixed methods. We conclude by putting the themes emerging from our interviews into the broader context of the role of data in social scientific inquiry, and draw lessons about the future role of big data in research.

The Strange Death of Centrist England?

Art Television animated GIF

Politics is a capricious business. There’s a parallel universe somewhere in which the main political story of the day is prime minister David Miliband’s first 100 days, focussed on his surprisingly deft and humane handling of the migrant crisis. “Miliband is acting”, grumbles the Daily Mail, “like he’s head of the International Rescue Committee”. Continue reading “The Strange Death of Centrist England?”