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From Punched Cards To "Big Data": A Social History Of Database Populism, Kevin Driscoll Aug 2012

From Punched Cards To "Big Data": A Social History Of Database Populism, Kevin Driscoll

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Since the diffusion of the punched card tabulator following the 1890 U.S. Census, mass-scale information processing has been alternately a site of opportunity, ambivalence and fear in the American imagination. While large bureaucracies have tended to deploy database technology toward purposes of surveillance and control, the rise of personal computing made databases accessible to individuals and small businesses for the first time. Today, the massive collection of trace communication data by public and private institutions has renewed popular anxiety about the role of the database in society. This essay traces the social history of database technology across three periods ...