published on August 2, 2016
Ihde’s Missing Sciences
Postphenomenology, Big Data, and the Human Sciences
In Husserl’s Missing Technologies, Don Ihde urges us to think deeply and critically about the ways in which the technologies utilized in contemporary science structure the way we perceive and understand the natural world. In this paper, I argue that we ought to extend Ihde’s analysis to consider how such technologies are changing the way we perceive and understand ourselves too. For it is not only the natural or “hard” sciences which are turning to advanced technologies for help in carrying out their work, but also the social and “human” sciences. One set of tools in particular is rapidly being adopted—the family of information technologies that fall under the umbrella of “big data.” As in the natural sciences, big data is giving researchers in the human sciences access to phenomena which they would otherwise be unable to experience and investigate. And like the former, the latter thereby shape the ways those scientists perceive and understand who and what we are. Looking at two case studies of big data-driven research in the human sciences, I begin in this paper to suggest how we might understand these phenomenological and hermeneutic changes.