How Data Happened

Chris Wiggins


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WW Norton & Co
21 March 2023
ISBN: 9781324006732
384 pages

From the publisher

From facial recognition-capable of checking us onto flights or identifying undocumented residents-to automated decision systems that inform everything from who gets loans to who receives bail, each of us moves through a world determined by data-empowered algorithms. But these technologies didn't just appear: they are part of a history that goes back centuries, from the birth of eugenics in Victorian Britain to the development of Google search. Expanding on the popular course they created at Columbia University, Chris Wiggins and Matthew Jones illuminate the ways in which data has long been used as a tool and a weapon in arguing for what is true, as well as a means of rearranging or defending power. By understanding the trajectory of data-where it has been and where it might yet go-Wiggins and Jones argue that we can understand how to bend it to ends that we collectively choose, with intentionality and purpose.