For a heterodox computational social science

Paper by Petter Törnberg and Justus Uitermark: “The proliferation of digital data has been the impetus for the emergence of a new discipline for the study of social life: ‘computational social science’. Much research in this field is founded on the premise that society is a complex system with emergent structures that can be modeled or reconstructed through digital data. This paper suggests that computational social science serves practical and legitimizing functions for digital capitalism in much the same way that neoclassical economics does for neoliberalism. In recognition of this homology, this paper develops a critique of the complexity perspective of computational social science and argues for a heterodox computational social science founded on the meta-theory of critical realism that is critical, methodological pluralist, interpretative and explanative. This implies diverting computational social science’ computational methods and digital data so as to not be aimed at identifying invariant laws of social life, or optimizing state and corporate practices, but to instead be used as part of broader research strategies to identify contingent patterns, develop conjunctural explanations, and propose qualitatively different ways of organizing social life….(More)”.