How to Respond to Data Science: Early Data Criticism by Lionel Trilling
Abstract

Abstract:

This article was originally drafted just four weeks after the publishing of Dataclysm, a 2014 book by Christian Rudder that sought to popularize data and data science by, in part, dismissing the social sciences and humanities as obsolete approaches to knowledge production. In looking for a potential way of responding to data scientists like Rudder, this article examines a 1948–50 essay about data that was written by Lionel Trilling (1905–75). Trilling frames data as part of our broader cultural history, which includes literature, drama, epic poetry, and the arts. This article argues that what Trilling models in the essay is a line of writing and thinking about data—a type of data criticism—that today offers tremendous promise for responding to data science and to evangelists like Christian Rudder.