Big data is a well-known phenomenon, even a buzzword nowadays. It refers to an abundance of data and new possibilities to process and use them. Big data is subject of many publications. Some pay attention to the many possibilities of big data, others warn us for their consequences. This special issue goes beyond the hype. It contains accessible contributions about opportunities and threats of big data. The authors have put special emphasize on big data institutions. Many publications about big data seem relatively poor on institutions, reflecting a more technocratic approach. In this first contribution we will introduce core concepts around big data. Additionally, we will specify the need to delve into institutions of big data.