I’m working on a précis of my dissertation. I also wrote an addendum which focuses on the benefits of this research to Critical Data Studies, my major field.

Here’s what I have so far:

On the purpose of my dissertation: I am a scholar in the field of Critical Data Studies (or CDS). My project interrogates Big Data as a source epistemic legitimation. I explore the epistemic predicates on which Big Data and the computational techniques it has necessitated, e.g. data science, are accepted as a priori sources of knowledge and facticity. I identify these predicates as a cohesive system which I name “the epistemic regime of data.” I offer that contemporary research on the use of psychedelic substances in psychiatry substantiates a critical intervention in the epistemic regime of data.

To position psychedelic science against Big Data, I examine the rationale provided for the use of non-digital methods by clinical researchers. I use studies from authorized psychedelic studies to articulate the logic by which digital methods are often expressed as insufficient in this field. These philosophical pretexts are incommensurate with those on which Big Data is invested with intellectual privilege.

As digital technologies proliferate, the presumptive epistemic authority of Big Data is a matter of growing social concern. Psychedelic science has been marginalized due to misinformation and disrepute. I am committed to it, however, because it is deeply useful toward a critical theorization of data’s epistemic regime.

Regarding how Critical Data Studies stands to benefit from my work: CDS investigates the cultural, historical and theoretical factors supporting the expansion of Big Data. The epistemic reverberations of Big Data in society constitute a major site of inquiry for CDS scholars.

Highly specific approaches are required to identify the therapeutic properties of psychedelics. Orthodoxy must be considered in light of these chemicals’ unusual effects. Methodological reflections in this field are robust and reflexive. Read as a body of literature, psychedelic science methodology compasses an immanent critique of the epistemic regime of data.

Studies on psychedelics flourished in the postwar era. These investigations withstood an idle period in later decades, but have been recently revived. During this latent spell, digital computation significantly expanded. It is productive to develop technology criticism through psychedelic studies. Deployed as a framework, psychedelic science has myriad unique benefits to offer CDS.


Next stop is San Diego for the 2019 Western Political Science Association conference, and after that, Roanoke for Gender, Bodies, and Technology. At some point I want to write a post that clarifies some basic connections between the ideas that are central to these (quite different) talks. The red threads are there, and after multiple years of work, I still think they’re fascinating and beautiful 🙂

I’ll make that post when I have the time!