Article title: Questioning Big Data: Crowdsourcing crisis data towards an inclusive humanitarian response
From Big Data & Society
In this paper authors analyse the Big Data making processes deployed by a new type of (semi-formal) humanitarian organization in disaster settings: the geographically dispersed networks of digital humanitarians. The aim is to critically explore whether crowdsourced Big Data enables an inclusive humanitarian response at times of crisis
The paper is based on familiarity with the 2010 Haiti crisis and on fieldwork in Nepal, carried out two months after the 2015 earthquake and a second visit a year later. The humanitarian networks of technology volunteers rely on crowdsourcing and are organized around open civic technology platforms. By exploring crowdsourcing and open data initiatives that were used in the immediate aftermath of these crises, authors aim to establish how community participation in creating – and using – crisis data was enabled and hindered in these crowdsourced aid efforts, what efforts were undertaken by crowdsourcing platforms to address barriers to inclusion and what challenges still remain.
The aim of this paper is to critically explore whether crowdsourced Big Data enables an inclusive humanitarian response at times of crisis. We argue that all data, including Big Data, are socially constructed artefacts that reflect the contexts and processes of their creation. To support our argument, we qualitatively analysed the process of ‘Big Data making’ that occurred by way of crowdsourcing through open data platforms, in the context of two specific humanitarian crises, namely the 2010 earthquake in Haiti and the 2015 earthquake in Nepal. We show that the process of creating Big Data from local and global sources of knowledge entails the transformation of information as it moves from one distinct group of contributors to the next. The implication of this transformation is that locally based, affected people and often the original ‘crowd’ are excluded from the information flow, and from the interpretation process of crowdsourced crisis knowledge, as used by formal responding organizations, and are marginalized in their ability to benefit from Big Data in support of their own means. Our paper contributes a critical perspective to the debate on participatory Big Data, by explaining the process of in and exclusion during data making, towards more responsive humanitarian relief.
Questioning Big Data: Crowdsourcing crisis data towards an inclusive humanitarian response Femke Mulder, Julie Ferguson, Peter Groenewegen, Kees Boersma, Jeroen Wolbers
Big Data & Society
First Published August 1, 2016