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The Epistemology of Data Science: Mathematics and the Critical Research Agenda on Data Practices (FWOAL950)

The existing critical research agenda on contemporary data practices focuses on data and computing technology (hardware, software). We propose to broaden this agenda by a critical evaluation of the role of mathematics in data practices. This move will in the first place shed light on ethical and epistemological risks in data science that might otherwise remain underexposed. In addition, it will place the current critical scholarship on data science on a broader conceptual basis and contribute to the creation of a more nuanced understanding of how mathematics is used in data science and how mathematics shapes the practice of data science.

This project will make 4 contributions. First, we will develop a broad narrative on the significance of the authority of mathematics for the trust we place in data science. Second, we will argue that a reflective approach to mathematical values can help us understand the mathematical cultures that shape data science and can even be used to counter unreflective attitudes towards data science. Third, we will formulate specific conjectures about the connection between mathematical values and our epistemic attitudes towards data science. Fourth, we will investigate the presence of mathematical values in professional discourses and scientific publications in data science.
Date:1 Jan 2020 →  31 Dec 2023
Disciplines:Ethics of technology, General philosophy of science, Philosophy of mathematics