It’s a revolution. We’re really just getting under way. But the march of quantification, made possible by enormous new sources of data, will sweep through academia, business and government. There is no area that is going to be untouched.
Gary King, director of Harvard’s Institute for Quantitative Social Science, to the New York Times. The Age of Big Data.
To grasp the potential impact of Big Data, look to the microscope, says Erik Brynjolfsson, an economist at Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Sloan School of Management. The microscope, invented four centuries ago, allowed people to see and measure things as never before — at the cellular level. It was a revolution in measurement.
Data measurement, Professor Brynjolfsson explains, is the modern equivalent of the microscope. Google searches, Facebook posts and Twitter messages, for example, make it possible to measure behavior and sentiment in fine detail and as it happens.
Ditto all the data producing sensors in industrial equipment, buying trends at the Walmarts of the world, traffic patterns and delivery routes analyzed by the likes of UPS, and on and on and on.
A great overview for those trying to understand what the Big Data fuss is all about.
Related: Big Data was a big deal at the World Economic Forum. A report issued from it called Big Data, Big Impact: New Possibilities for International Development can be downloaded here.
We’re at the start of a revolution in the ways marketers and media intrude in — and shape — our lives. Every day, most if not all Americans who use the internet, along with hundreds of millions of other users from all over the planet, are being quietly peeked at, poked, analyzed and tagged as they move through the online world. Governments undoubtedly conduct a good deal of snooping, more in some parts of the world than in others. But in North America, Europe, and many other places, companies that work for marketers have taken the lead in secretly slicing and dicing the actions and backgrounds of huge populations on a virtually minute-by-minute basis. Their goal is to find out how to activate individuals’ buying impulses so they can sell us stuff more efficiently than ever before. But their work has broader social and cultural consequences as well. It is destroying traditional publishing ethics by forcing media outlets to adapt their editorial content to advertisers’ public-relations needs and slice-and-dice demands. And it is performing a highly controversial form of social profiling and discrimination by customizing our media content on the basis of marketing reputations we don’t even know we have.
Joseph Turow, The Atlantic. A Guide to the Digital Advertising Industry That’s Watching Your Every Click.
A longread excerpt from Turow’s new book The Daily You.