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September 01, 2006

Social Data Browsing


The Dumpster

"Consider the following paradox. The same few decades of the nineteenth century that gave us the most detailed artistic representations of human emotions and inner feelings, including romantic love, also saw the rise of statistical and sociological imagination. While Flaubert and Tolstoy were putting the emotions of their heroines under the artistic microscope of their prose, a different paradigm was emerging in which the individuals were nothing but dots contributing to a social law, a pattern, or a distribution. In 1838 August Compte coined the term 'sociology' for the new discipline that was to study the laws governing the life of society. (He also proposed the term 'social physics'). According to another founder of the discipline, Emile Durkheim, sociology is the science concerned with 'social facts' - phenomena that have an independent and objective existence separate from the actions of the individuals. In his major work Suicide (1897) Durkheim set out to demonstrate how such seemingly individual acts as suicides in fact follow general statistical patterns and can be explained in terms of structural forces that operate in society at large. Compare this to Anna Karenina (1877) where Tolstoy meticulously follows the last hours and minutes of Anna's life with a kind of anti-sociological gaze - looking at her not from the outside as a social scientist, but on the contrary, depicting how the outside world appears as seen by her." Continue reading Social Data Browsing by Lev Manovich, February 12 2006.

Posted by jo at September 1, 2006 09:25 AM