Christian Pentzold

Envisioning ‘big data’ brings up a palette of concerns about its technological intricacies, political significance, commercial value, and cultural impact. Unsurprisingly, given big data’s broad reception, the ambivalent notion inspires different social imaginations. Our paper looks at a chief arena of this emerging sensemaking and considers the spectrum of images on big data as they circulate in news texts. Establishing a powerful imagery is, we suppose, both a key journalistic task and an eminent challenge in order to frame big data as a public issue. In our analysis we collected a complete sample of all images with captions published in the article sections of the online editions of the US daily newspapers New York Times and Washington Post. We employ an analytical framework that combines a quantitative-qualitative image-type analysis with qualitative framing research. Extending previous findings, the results suggest that big data is predominantly framed as a force of nature to be controlled, a resource to be consumed, or as an invisible but all-seeing observatory in need of review.

In this project, I worked together with my colleagues Cornelia Brantner and Lena Fölsche.