Order of Multitudes

The Order of Multitudes

What can the long histories of information management tell us about our age of big data? At the 2020-21 Mellon Sawyer Seminar at Yale, we study three means of ordering information:
Through speaker series, course offerings, scholarship opportunities, and collaborative projects at Yale and beyond.


These are the intellectual puzzles that animate our inquiry.

What is the relationship between facts and knowledge?

This question has been a staple of academic philosophy since the eighteenth century. But it seems to be taking on new urgency at this historical moment, which is characterized by public disagreement over basic “facts.” Promiscuous Knowledge, a new book by John Durham Peters and Ken Cmiel, charts two processes that have shaped the modern […]
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What is “data diversity”? Is it a problem or an opportunity?

“Data diversity” carries remarkably different meanings in different domains of research today. In one sense, the phrase responds to the racism perpetuated by common algorithms, such as Google’s search engine (see, for instance, Safiya Noble’s Algorithms of Oppression). Researchers who use the tools of machine learning to improve user-oriented algorithms use “data diversity” to refer […]
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Is the internet a democratic space?

Scholars who pose this question understand it in two distinct ways. Some scholars ask if the internet is democratic in the sense of allowing its users equal opportunities for public self-expression regardless of their race, class, gender, or economic status. Digital media promise such equality, but do they actually achieve it? Others ask if the […]
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How have atlases been used in art and science?

The term “atlas” usually describes a book of maps or charts, or a book of scientific diagrams. The most common examples are world atlases, road atlases, and anatomical atlases. As collections of drawings or visualizations, atlases typically depict a particular object from a variety of perspectives. Usually identified with scientific illustration practices, atlases have also […]
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Is the ideal encyclopedia infinite?

The creators of encyclopedias aspire to include everything. Theoretically, to create an encyclopedia is to dream of being able to encompass the infinite amounts of information that exist. But this is, of course, a paradox: we cannot truly confine infinite knowledge to the (finite) pages of a book, website, or other hyper-media form of the […]
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