Dickens, Cholera and Big Data
Wednesday, April 5, 2017
FIMS and Nursing Building (FNB)
Presented by Grant Campbell as part of the FIMS Seminar Series.
Abstract: Steven Johnson, in The Ghost Walk, celebrates the work of John Snow in tracing the origins of the cholera outbreak in London in 1854, arguing that Snow practiced methods of information visualization and data analysis that now occupy a central place in today's information environment. This presentation will contrast Snow's insights with the insights of Charles Dickens in Bleak House, published 2 years before the outbreak. Dickens, like Snow, was deeply concerned with issues of public health, water quality and sanitation; furthermore, Bleak House also deals with data and information issues that have since become prominent, including predictive analytics and face recognition. But Dickens's conclusions, unlike the conclusions Johnson draws from Snow, are more complex, and offer a cautionary annotation to current big data narratives.
Faculty of Information and Media Studies