Order of Multitudes

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Public Knowledge in the Age of Private Data (November 10, 2021)


Social scientists aspire to create public knowledge for public good. From open source programming to open access publishing, a major movement is underway to make the future knowledge findable, accessible, interoperable, and reproducible. But the world’s data is moving in the opposite direction: a majority of archives are now fenced inside private corporations, governed by a patchwork of data and privacy laws, and exploited in a labyrinth of proprietary algorithms that are essentially black boxes.

How could social scientists continue to advance public knowledge in this age of private data? What new collaborative platforms — between governments, academic institutions, and the private sector — are needed? How could social scientists maximize data sharing and access while safeguarding individual privacy and intellectual property? We respond to these urgent questions by bringing together an interdisciplinary group of scholars:

Lisa Messeri, Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Yale University


  • Molly Crockett, Associate Professor of Psychology at Yale University
  • Nick Seaver, Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Tufts University
  • Angela Xiao Wu, Assistant Professor of Media, Culture, and Communication at New York University