Exclusive content: Craig Thompson’s forthcoming article on the Myths and Pitfalls of Big Data (Journal of Marketing Management)December 18, 2018
The “Big Data” Myth and the Pitfalls of “Thick Data” Opportunism: On the Need for a Different Ontology of Markets and Consumption
* Craig J. Thompson University of Wisconsin-Madison Department of Marketing
The twin pillars of big data and data analytics are rapidly transforming the institutional conditions that situate marketing research. In response, many proponents of culturalist paradigms have adopted the vernacular of “thick data” to defend their perpetually vulnerable position in the marketing field. However, thick data proselytizing fails to challenge outmoded ontological assumptions about consumers and their marketplace relationships that are manifest in the big data myth and ultimately, it situates socio-cultural modes of marketing thought in a technocratic discourse that further exacerbates their precarious institutional status. After discussing the relevant historical continuities and discontinuities that have shaped both the big data myth and thick data opportunism, I argue that culturally-oriented marketing researchers, whether in the academic or applied sectors, should promote a different ontological frame that addresses how big data, or more accurately its socio-technical infrastructure, produces new kinds of emergent and hybrid market structures, consumption practices, modes of social aggregation (and disaggregation), and prosumptive capacities. Toward this end, I propose that the analytics of market assemblages, which draws inspiration from Foucault’s analytics of power, offers a more ontologically and ideologically viable discursive counterpoint to the big data myth.
This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in the Journal of Marketing Management, Forthcoming