Datatrust: Or, the political quest for numerical evidence and the epistemologies of Big Data

Gernot Rieder, Judith Simon

Research output: Journal Article or Conference Article in JournalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Recently, there has been renewed interest in so-called evidence-based policy making. Enticed by the grand promises of Big Data, public officials seem increasingly inclined to experiment with more data-driven forms of governance. But while the rise of Big Data and related consequences has been a major issue of concern across different disciplines, attempts to develop a better understanding of the phenomenon's historical foundations have been rare. This short commentary addresses this gap by situating the current push for numerical evidence within a broader socio-political context, demonstrating how the epistemological claims of Big Data science intersect with specific forms of trust, truth, and objectivity. We conclude by arguing that regulators' faith in numbers can be attributed to a distinct political culture, a representative democracy undermined by pervasive public distrust and uncertainty.
Original languageEnglish
JournalBig Data & Society
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • Big Data
  • evidence-based policy making
  • quantification
  • trust in numbers
  • mechanical objectivity
  • epistemology


Dive into the research topics of 'Datatrust: Or, the political quest for numerical evidence and the epistemologies of Big Data'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this