Big Data, Big Questions| Living on Fumes: Digital Footprints, Data Fumes, and the Limitations of Spatial Big Data
Amid the continued rise of big data in both the public and private sectors, spatial information has come to play an increasingly prominent role. This article defines big data as both a sociotechnical and epistemic project with regard to spatial information. Through interviews, job shadowing, and a review of current literature, both academic researchers and private companies are shown to approach spatial big data sets in analogous ways. Digital footprints and data fumes, respectively, describe a process that inscribes certain meaning into quantified spatial information. Social and economic limitations of this data are presented. Finally, the field of geographic information science is presented as a useful guide in dealing with the “hard work of theory” necessary in the big data movement.