Data Liberation Front

Posted on July 12, 2018


Humans are free. To live and die. Animals are free. To die and be eaten. But data… they are the most unfree shadows on the cave’s wall. My data are not free. My data do not freely flower. My data are not free. My data do not give me power.

It has not always been so. Newton was a philosopher following the Polish Brothers, or Arians. He learned to disguise his metaphysical roots, but his Principia came out of this disguise in order to explain stones and stars and falling apples. And time’s winged chariot, hurrying near. Darwin had decided to become the Newton of the haystacks and beaks and of the Galapagos turtles and of the blades of grass. He wanted, very much like Newton, to demonstrate divine order among the chaos of movements and evolutions. His data went alive and kicking. Karl Marx had decided to become the Darwin of the social sciences and to explain history as an evolution, with a twist, with a turn and with a self-reflexive mind of a manager. Data had to dance to the tune of time. Darwin refused to allow Marx dedicate “The Capital” to him. He wanted to have no links to this godless study. His data did not condemn in Moscow trials and purges. Class struggle did not merge with natural selection. Data set the record straight.

Not forever. After all, data were born to be free, but they were in chains of copyrights and wrongs. They were born to be accessible, yet they were locked behind paywalls and firewalls. They were meant to be populist, yet they were served to the elites. But data soon flooded information channels. Data soon broke the gates of knowledge. Data marched from Encyclopaedia to Wikipedia to Wikileaks and Wikicommons listening to different drummers. What will they - yet - liberate us from?

Haarlem/Poznan, July 12, 2018