What Is Big Data?

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It’s said that in the last two years, more data has been created than all the data that ever was created before that time. And that in two years hence, we’ll be able to say the same thing. Gary King, the head of the Institute for Quantitative Social Science at Harvard University, isn’t certain those statements are exactly true, but certain they are true in essence. And he’s even more certain that the growth in the amount of data isn’t why big data is changing the world.

As he tells interviewer Dave Edmonds in this Social Science Bites podcast, roughly 650 million social media messages will go out today. So to someone trying to make statements about what those messages contain, he posited, would having 750 million messages make anything better? “Having bigger data,” King says, “only makes things more difficult.”

Or to be blunter, “The data itself isn’t likely to be particularly useful; the question is whether you can make it useful.”

Listen to Gary King on Big Data Analysis

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There is growing consensus that with big data comes great opportunity, but also great risk.

But these risks are not getting enough political and public attention. One way to better appreciate the risks that come with our big data future is to consider how people are already being negatively affected by uses of it. At Cardiff University’s Data Justice Lab, we decided to record the harms that big data uses have already caused, pulling together concrete examples of harm that have been referenced in previous work so that we might gain a better big picture appreciation of where we are heading.

We did so in the hope that such a record will generate more debate and intervention from the public into the kind of big data society, and future we want...

Continue reading Joana Redden's article: Six ways (and counting) that big data systems are harming society

Further Reading

Big data is data sets that are so voluminous and complex that traditional data processing application software are inadequate to deal with them. Big data challenges include capturing data, data storage, data analysis, search, sharing, transfer, visualization, querying, updating and information privacy. There are three dimensions to big data known as Volume, Variety and Velocity.

Lately, the term "big data" tends to refer to the use of predictive analytics, user behavior analytics, or certain other advanced data analytics methods that extract value from data, and seldom to a particular size of data set. "There is little doubt that the quantities of data now available are indeed large, but that’s not the most relevant characteristic of this new data ecosystem." Analysis of data sets can find new correlations to "spot business trends, prevent diseases, combat crime and so on."...

Continue reading the Wikipedia article on Big Data

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Related Topics

 The Computer | The Internet | The Future

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