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Rhetorical studies of science, technology, and medicine (RSTM) have provided critical understanding of how argument and argument norms within a field shape what we mean by “data.” Work has also examined how questions that shape data collection are asked, how data is interpreted, and even how data is shared. Understood as a form of argument, data reveals important insights into rhetorical situations, the motives of rhetorical actors, and the broader appeals that shape everything from the kinds of technologies built, to their inclusion in our daily lives, to the infrastructures of cities, the medical practices and policies concerning public health, etc. Big data merits continued attention from RSTM scholars as our understanding of its pervasive use and its ethos grows, but its arguments remain elusive (Salvo, 2012). To unpack the elusivity of big data, we explore one particularly illustrative case of big data and political, democratic influence: the Cambridge Analytica scandal. To understand the case, we turn to social studies of data to explore the range of ethical issues raised by big data, and to examine the rhetorical strategies that entail big data.


Big Data, Cambridge Analytica, Ethics, Expertise, Facebook, Rhetoric of Technology


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Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License


This article draws on research supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council Insight Grant program as well as the Ontario Early Researcher Award program. We would like to the editor of this special issue, Iulian Vamanu, and also Amanda Axley and the reviewers for their helpful feedback.