WYSIWYG – What you see is what you get?

A short presentation on Big Data and Digitisation at the Max-Planck-Institute fro Social Law and Social Policy

WYSIWYG[1] – Also for Big Data?

WYSIWYG, the supposed revolutionary concept that once opened a new world for computer quarter-literates is not necessarily applicable if we look at the supposed recent revolution: Big Data. More likely we find the emergence of a WYSID – What You See Is Delusion.


[from Leibniz’ writing on the Binary Code Calculating Machine]

The presentation aims on contributing from the perspective of political economy to an understanding of some systemic developments that are hidden behind a blurred understanding of Big Data and Digitisation. The following is guiding the development of the argument:

  • Moving from Adventures in Wonderland to seeing the World Through the Looking-Glass – Some Terminological Remarks
  • From Gold Standard to Sparkling Diamonds – The Economy of the Digital and Informational Revolution
  • The Lonely Crowd versus Crowded Loneliness – About Individual, Social, Public and Private Matters
  • L’État c’est moi – l’état, c’est-à-dire nous? – Socio-Eco-Legal Issues around Public and Social Responsibility

On the latter, especially four topics are seen as major challenge:

  1. Concentralisation
  2. Public-Private-Datachips
  3. Changed status of Employees or changed property issues
  4. The Firm and the loss of transaction cost

Some background material can be found here.

Here the link to the recording of the presentation  – speaker presentation: Professor Dr. Ulrich Becker.


[1]            What you see is what you get


What we See – What we sometimes think – and What we have to learn

A Dedication to my Students, Around the World

The first impression on one of the the websites of my previous position was yesterday that of the

in its own way a very pleasing tune, matching the mood of the nicety of the previous Friday – for me much more than a beautiful autumn day

A day proving  the enjoyable lightness of being …

I scrolled down the site, saw the old photo showing me during the Shanghai Forum and was getting a bit curious, started the decipher …, wearisome …, to find out that all this is about the media centre and the ‘hyper-modern way of the networked world’ – where the global and the village come together …, perhaps not bad at all, if handled with care. Perhaps this is more important: the way to control the handling, not the instruments …

It surely means not least to be there for students – real, not virtual, and respecting …, no, accepting that we as teachers and as students have more in common than there are differences – where differences and arrogance, where delay and ‘servant-attitudes’ prevail, we have lost already our ingenuity.


Yes, writing “quick comments” is admittedly always dangerous, hastily arriving at wrong conclusions. Still, there is occasionally a huge temptation, and it may be justified as such writing possibly provokes …, well, some really important and not so hasty thoughts, easily overlooked when it comes to detailed analysis of …, well detailed analysis.

Reference at presence is a European Commission’s press release, titled

How digital is your country? New figures show action needed to unlock Europe’s potential

It presents results of the recent study of the DESI.

What is the DESI?

The Digital Economy and Society Index (DESI) is an online tool to measure the progress of EU Member States towards a digital economy and society. As such, it brings together a set of relevant indicators on Europe’s current digital policy mix.

If I am not mistaken, it fundamentally solves one fear of the past. People were afraid of the development, as they did not want to be “just a number”. We do not have to fear anymore that this may be coming up in the future. It is already the case.

And it also allows us to understand the attitude of those people in the glass palaces towards migration and migrants: Numbers cannot simply decide independently to enter an equation. Only the magician with numbers is The Lord, able and allowed to present the formula …, the white hair and long beard now appearing as netting of bits speeding through fiber glass.

  • Action needed to reach the global top: …

Yes, summits have to be reached – erected like the towers of fortresses. Would it not be an alternative to start with action to reach true global cooperation?

  • Better connectivity, but insufficient in the long-term: … . The EU needs to be ready to meet future demand and to provide the next generation of communication networks (5G).

Sure, but I am still wondering if our brain is fast enough to cope with the improvement of obtaining information, barely allowing for the time needed to think about it. – Since some years now I am introducing in my lectures a unit under the heading “slow reading”, the aim of which is UNDERSTANDING.

  • Digital skills to be improved:

It may not be much more than a side note, it may be that it actually is more: Apparently there is a paradoxical constellation in China where the language is strongly characterised by characters (instead of letters) and sound/pronouncation. The computer keyboard requires to write first by using letters, and moving from there to “choosing characters”. The consequence seems to be the emergence of a new form of analphabetism.

  • e-Commerce, a missed opportunity for smaller businesses:

Two of the issues, if you want: major reference points, in mainstream economics are scarcity and comparative advantage. Well, there is no reason to question the empirical data:

65% of European internet users shop online, but only 16% of SMEs sell online – and less than half of those sell online across borders (7.5%).

However, instead of aiming on change there could be another suggestion: SMEs may claim to move towards comparative advantage: offering something special instead of mass web-products, offer excellent individual advise, offering products that are even individually produced, or produced by individuals working together in cooperatives, and seeing the consumer as co-producer …

  • More public services online, but they are under-used:

Underused? If so, the conclusio may be that there is still hope and people still have more sense than those who govern them.

As said in the beginning, there are problems with such ad-hoc readings – there is much ore to it, including coproducing in particular due to the internet-use etc. – part of it I will deal with next month, when working briefly in Havana. But the problem of blasphemy is not necessarily the heretic; it may well be the self-acclamation of gods who forget that their suggested prayers are mere phantoms as long as their only purpose is … the bubble of their own believe system, the believe system of an old society of which we may say with Shakespeare:

Sans teeth, sans eyes

Sans taste, sans everything

Sure, talking about the believe system of an old society may end in a paradox: it easily lacks the opportunity to get a really good caffellatte.

PS: I hope my students anywhere do not read this blog-entry – as I am required to push them towards the global top, so to say: migrants with global access rights.