How helpful is big data for people

Education and digitization

Harald Gapski

To person

heads the research department at the Grimme Institute and works on projects at the Grimme Research College at the University of Cologne.
[email protected]

We live in the age of big data: Since 2002 there has been more digitally stored data than analog on earth and since 2009 there have been more digitally networked things than people. [1] According to forecasts, 150 billion devices will belong to the Internet of Things by 2025, and the digital data universe, the entirety of all digital data, will reach a size of 175 zettabytes. [2] If you were to burn this amount of data onto DVDs and stack them on top of one another, this stack would extend from the earth to the moon - 23 times. Our society is in a digital transformation in which the interaction between people, media technology and the social world is being rebalanced. New socio-technical structures are emerging in a highly dynamic and recursive manner: algorithms that support social decision-making processes, networks in which not only people but also machines communicate. Lots of "data that we didn't know existed finds ways that weren't intended and reveals things we never would have thought of". [3] What do these framework conditions mean for an education that is supposed to promote a critical-reflective relationship to the world and to one's own self? [4]

Different terms denote the diverse abilities and skills of the individual to find their way around and to be able to act in a world full of media and information technologies; First and foremost, and most prominently, the term "media literacy". The public boom for this term began in the mid-1990s and with the increasing use of the Internet. It was the time of the "information superhighway" and the "computer driver's license". In the spirit of this metaphor, in 1998 the long-time head of the cultural department of Frankfurt am Main, Linda Reisch, seized central arguments and dimensions of media competence - from instrumental handling to media-ecological criticism to digital detox - by putting media use and driving in an analogy to one another: "Media literacy in an automotive society would mean for me: knowing what you are doing when you drive a car, namely that you get from point A within time X under certain circumstances can get to point B, and what it costs - my wallet as well as society and the environment. Media literacy means that I can drive this medium 'car' properly, that I know traffic rules and observe that I do not constantly drive at excessive speed drive and burn an excessive amount of fuel (...), but that I also know when I prefer to take the train, bus or bike. "[5]

Informational self-determination

Today the question is who is "at the wheel", the question of sovereignty in the digital world. But: The sense of this metaphorical way of speaking dissolves. The car, i.e. the medium itself, is beginning to become autonomous. What is the competence of the human driver when the "medium car" independently finds the best route from A to B and makes the decisions in traffic? Not using the car and changing the means of transport is no longer an option in times of ubiquitous connectivity. At the same time, talk of the "autonomous car" should be questioned. Philosophically one could argue that a car can never be autonomous because it has no concept of freedom. [6] The "autonomous car", like "artificial intelligence", is a metaphor, a medium of thought that guides our understanding of technology. Language and its discursive use are required in order to criticize ideology and find orientation in the digital world.

Let's stay with the metaphorical and quote the engineer Gottlieb Daimler with the words ascribed to him: "The global demand for motor vehicles will not exceed a million - if only for the lack of available chauffeurs." [7] The inventors of that time were able to use the disruptive technologies along with their socio-technical effects. It is still true today that applications and markets can develop very differently than expected. Let us not think of the digitally networked car as a transport tool, but rather as a mobile sensor for datafying the world and the behavior of the person behind the wheel. The question remains: are we behind the wheel? Do we have control over, for example, our data on social networks?

The Federal Constitutional Court in 1983 formulated the right to informational self-determination, derived from the general right of personality and human dignity, in its census ruling as "the power of the individual to determine in principle the disclosure and use of his personal data". The question today is whether we are already living in a social order "in which citizens can no longer know who knows what, when and on what occasion" - precisely in the type of society that the Federal Constitutional Court considered "incompatible" in its decision "looked on with this right. [8]

Despite the European General Data Protection Regulation, the discussion is not over. Critics such as the legal scholar Winfried Veil consider it "at best naive to assume that the individual has a realistic possibility of controlling the processing of information related to him. The loss of control is not just an observable fact. A significant proportion of Internet users thinks also no longer at all in the categories of the deterministic model of privacy on which the idea of ‚Äč‚Äčinformational self-determination is based. "[9] This loss of control occurs even though there is a broad social consensus on goods worthy of protection such as privacy, self-determination and data protection, [10 ] and leads to the question of a possible gain in freedom for the individual.

Media competence in the digitized modern age

Modernity has produced a society divided into functions: an economic system operates on money, a political system with power, and a legal system with applicable law. Each of these subsystems forms and negotiates different discourses on media literacy.

In the economic discourse, promoting media and digital skills is seen as the answer to the threat skillsgap. Competent ones are currently in particular demand data scientists. On the demand side, media and digital skills represent acceptance factors in a digital economy. In political discourse, media competence is classified as part of a democratic competence to maintain a critical public. In the legal discourse, media literacy has found its way into state media laws as a regulatory factor. Calls for more personal responsibility and competence in media use can be seen as effects of media law control problems. A technical discourse on the design of human-machine interfaces could also be delimited. In this context, media competence would not be assigned to people one-sidedly, but could only be promoted in an interactive way between people and machines. In the educational discourse, media competence is derived from the overarching communicative competence of people, here the maturity and empowerment of a strong and sovereign subject are at the center. Finally, in the media system and in the mass media, society observes itself. Reports about insufficient skills, for example in dealing with fake news or algorithms, cause constant irritation of the media publics.

Every demand for more individual competence emphasizes the social importance of media and digital technologies and at the same time creates a lack of transparency with regard to the socio-technical structural changes to be taken into account. In its shortening subjectivation, media competence creates the blind spot of the necessary structural change in society. [11] This is an overburdening of the educational discourse, the focus of which is necessarily on the subject and insofar as it cannot comprehensively include the socio-technical design challenges.

The differentiation of media competence in the project of modernity does not remain unaffected by the processes of digitization, or, to put it in the words of the systems theorist Dirk Baecker: "On the project of modernity, the inclusion of the general population in political, legal, economic, educational and cultural processes, follows the project of digitization, the transformation of analog into discreetly countable, binary-coded, statistically evaluable, machine-calculable processes. "[12] The project of digitization creates a new social nervous system, a global control and monitoring system, the existing one Uses information technology to research human (social) behavior. With the subsequent "Social Physics" program, it is hoped that with the help of big data and a predictive and calculative theory of human behavior, better systems of coexistence can be designed. [13] The social credit system in China is an extreme example of the data-driven control of social processes in the sense of a new governance principle. However, the sociologist Steffen Mau also diagnoses the characteristics of the project of digitization and a progressive quantification of the social for the western world: "With the availability of more and more data, society is on the way to a data-driven testing, monitoring and evaluation society that only believe what is available in numbers. "[14]

Educational claims follow from these present-day diagnoses. Education in the digital transformation means building a reflective relationship to the world and to oneself to precisely these politically and individually highly momentous developments and to counter the abbreviations of an omnipresent social measurement: not just counting, but also telling, not just measuring, but also judging, Appropriate judgment and measurement are fundamental to our relationship with the world and with ourselves. Abilities to think this critically and discursively and to express it in language occupy a prominent position in the bundle of future educational goals.