New ARITHMUS working paper on history and method

The ARITHMUS team is happy to announce the release of its third working paper. The paper is titled ‘Regarding the Constants of Nature and of Art’ is freely available for download here.

As big data discourses become more dominant in census discussions among European National Statistics Institutes, it is productive to look back at a time when quantification was beginning to assert its dominance as a method for ordering the world. The working paper argues that analyses of past census methodology can help guide social studies of contemporary quantification methods, and suggests a way of seeing contemporary practices of big data analytics through the lens of Charles Babbage’s seemingly arbitrary “constants of nature and art”. The purpose of this short paper is to introduce a potential line of inquiry for further consideration; it does not provide a detailed examination of the method itself.