Big Data – Epistemological Requests of Systems Science

On October 10th and 11th in 2018 the BCSSS became a Big Data Hub, where about 15 people of different disciplines came together in order to critically assess the fundamental epistemological potential of Big Data. The event dealt with a philosophical oriented, multidisciplinary examination as an epistemology of Big Data.



Systems Medicine.

BCSSS Vice President Felix Tretter welcomed the participants and gave an introductory presentation on the epistemology of Big Data. He, furthermore, presented an input on “Systems Medicine – Molecular Big Data of Health and Illness”. Tretter stated that marketing rhetoric is a danger to exact and understandable public scientific knowledge. The quality of test and measurement theory must improve significantly, in order to become stronger than the public presentation of scientific organisation actors in Big Data, Tretter said.

Big Data in Social Sciences.

Prof. Dr. Dirk Helbing professor at the University of Zurich gave a Social Sciences perspective on Big Data. He used the metaphor of a machine when he stated that the oil, meaning data volume, is available but the machine itself yet missing. According to Helbing scientific and ethical competence is needed as well as interdisciplinary and multi-perspective approaches to deal with Big Data. The struggles to deal with the large data volume has been underestimated, which led to spurious correlations relating to data, he states.

The Power in Big Data Analytics.

Prof. Dr. Roland Scholz, also professor at the University of Zurich, spoke about the possibilities for bilateral transdisciplinary of Big Data, in his presentation “How does Big Data Analytics change Science and the Power Relations among Stakeholders – transdisciplinary perspectives”. Integrating knowledge and transdisciplinary processes are key strategies for understanding the complex systems of humans and environment.

Big Data in Practice.

Yvonne Hofstetter, author and entrepreneur in the field of technology from Munich, gave an insight on “Big Data in Practice”. According to Hofstetter knowledge should be common property since science serves the information of the people as well as the social organisations. An increasing privatisation of Big Data needs prevention, according to a democratic approach.


An insight on “Transcultural Theory Perspectives in Medicine – Biocybernetics” was given by Prof. Dr. Jochen Mau. Biocybernetics are, according to Mau, essential for medicine. He also gave a critical perspective to guidelines, which, if not carefully reflected, lead to a loss of professional intuition and could revolve in incompetence for the medical profession.


In this intense collaborative exchange, the participants jointly looked at the status quo of Big Data in a constructive and critical way. The current epistemological value of Big Data for science and economy was examined and discussed. The attendees were scientists as well as persons in the world of practice and, thus, reflected the epistemology from various perspectives. A common opinion was, that the current design of models, software and codes is based on an epistemology that does not provide us with the insights it promises.


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