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The Masters Tools Will Never Dismantle the Masters House: New approaches to ethical issues in data

An Opinion Piece by Doug Specht, published by European Financial Review

As we try to grapple with ever more data, control has been handed to an ever growing number of poorly regulated tech companies who fail to store, collect, or use this data appropriately. The classical computational answers are no longer viable, instead we need more social sciences, and a lot more ethics.

We have a problem. It’s one that has been building for some time, one that we have seen coming, but one that has grown beyond control or measure. We are entering the age of Peak Data. More data is being generated by more technologies than ever before. And more data is being used to drive the social conditions of our lives, in turn creating more data through feedback loops. The films we watch and the music we listen to is now decided by digital algorithms that throw up suggestions and recommendations. Our friendship networks are facilitated through digital platforms which shoe-horn us into categories and groups. Decisions about where infrastructure should be build, or bus routes placed, are based upon millions of data points collected as people travel around cities. Almost every part of our day interacts with digital tools, through the data we provide, and through the decisions made by tech companies and data driven projects that pertain to make our lives better.

Doug Specht


Dr Doug Specht is a cultural geographer and educationalist. His research explores themes related to environmental justice, human rights, and access to education, with a focus on the production and codification of knowledge though cartographic artefacts and in educational settings. In recognition of his work, he has been appointed as a Chartered Geographer and Chartered Teacher. In addition, he has been awarded Advanced Teacher Status, alongside being a Senior Fellow of AdvanceHE. Dr. Specht has authored numerous articles and books, including Mapping Crisis, the Routledge Handbook of Geospatial Technology and Society, the Media and Communications Student Study Guide and Imagining Apocalyptic Politics in the Anthropocene. He writes regularly on ethics, environmental and human rights, education, and mapping practices in such publications as WonkHE, The Conversation, Geographical, and for Times Higher Education. Dr Specht is a member of the editorial board of the European Journal of Geography, Westminster papers in Communication and Culture, and Anthropocenes – Human, Inhuman, Posthuman. He is Chair of the Environmental Network for Central America.


23 October 2019
Published By
European Financial Review
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