#LAK11 – Utopian and Dystopian Visions of Analytics: It’s a Question of Validity

Catching up on the beginning of LAK11 which began last week.

George Siemens’ 1-16 post has initiated a discussion on critiques, much of which seems to focus on dystopian critique.

David Jones’ earlier critique is a good example.  His interesting critique is based on his fear of teleological implementation:

This remains my major reservation about all these types of innovations. In the end, they will be applied to institutional contexts through teleological processes. i.e. the change will be done to the institution and its members to achieve some set plan. Implementation will have little contextual sensitivity and thus will have limited quality adoption. . ..

This is what I consider to be a basic modernist approach with only quantitative teleology, that is, final causes can be judged solely through numbers resulting from simple quantitative analyses.

I studied Samuel Messick for my dissertation and my reading of him was that he was a psychometrician who took seriously the postmodern critique of the 20th Century philosophers of sciences.  His response was that the question of validity could never be answered without both quantitative and qualitative analysis.  Messick’s approach has always been seen negatively by those who need the teleological certainty of positivist quantitative only answers.  This is exactly the simplistic way David fears analysis will be used and his fear is valid.  Not because these tools can not achieve good things, they could improve our lives tremendously.  However, understanding in depth their use and the consequences of their use is a difficult undertaking requiring quantitative and qualitative analysis in it’s own right.  Many people will not be willing to put in that kind of effort.  A utopian leaning vision can only be achieved with hard work and much effort, but a dystopian vision can be achieve with only minimal effort.