Look at that Data, it’s so … BIG

Learning about Big Data this week had the same effect on me as when a person truly realizes their place in the cosmos – understanding the vastness of the data and the potential that lies within is thrilling, but realizing how massive and unpredictable it is is also terrifying. But unlike the cosmos, which are pretty distant and not likely to directly affect my life anytime soon, unless a huge meteor a la Armageddon comes along, Big Data can and does have a real impact on my life. That’s also a little terrifying. I am a tiny cog in this big machine, supplying my personal data to the pot, giving businesses and corporations what they need to learn about me and try to win my patronage; in other words, my MONEY.

While I am definitely wary of Big Data and the continual invasion of my privacy, I think it’s exciting to know we are on the horizon of the use of this data, as companies scramble to interpret it and figure out creative ways to use it. There are so many potential positive uses for this data – even a quick 20 minute brainstorm session in class yielded lots of ideas – that I’d like to think that at least some of the use will be positive. I know the true, ultimate goal of having this data is to continue with mass customization and make people’s online experience even more tailored to their likes and habits, driving them to buy more things in their area of interest. But just like the Internet itself, I know that some good use will come of it, and I think it holds potential to improve lots of areas of society.

I really enjoyed the discussion of the use of data in journalism, and how it has improved reporting and telling stories. I always enjoy looking at a good, interactive infographic, but I never really thought about the volume of data behind each one. The point made in the data journalism video we watched that stuck with me the most was that in the past, most people wouldn’t have access to this data, mostly because of its sheer volume and the time it would take to make sense of it. But now that journalists can go through and analyze and organize it in a way that makes it relevant to their readers, this data is available and has the power to improve people’s lives. That right there is one of those positive uses of Big Data I was talking about, and I hope to see more of them.

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