Class this week was all about Big Data– the collection of raw information that can be analyzed for trends.
Big Data is a hot topic right now, particularly in discussions about data mining and privacy, because, like much of our discussions about internet-related issues, it is a double-edged sword. Data mining itself is controversial, and combined with the perceived breach of privacy associated with getting one’s data mined by a larger corporation, it’s no wonder that the act of collecting of data has folks up in arms.
However, there are also advantages for both the business and the consumer sides– rather, businesses will support Big Data for their own profit and the ability to use trends discovered in analyzing Big Data to more specifically target their audiences, and it’ll affect the user/consumer experience by making the experience seem more personalized.
Personally, I think Big Data is really cool, but I’m also a confessed stats nerd. I love the idea of having so much data to play with, and it’s data that can tell us so much about consumer tendencies and behaviors. There’s nothing inherently wrong with collecting large amounts of data, but it becomes murky when we consider who’s doing the collecting and what that analyses are being used for– like many innovations, the intention behind the invention may be good, but so many great tools have been used for bad. I think using Big Data as a research tool to understand human nature is good, but it’s unfortunately not that simple. Research is often funded by the government or large businesses, and they’ll only invest money into that research if they can somehow gain or profit from it– it’s so sad that altruism has fallen to the wayside. Without the companies, there is no money, and without the money, there is no research and no Big Data. Therein rests the double-edged sword: We, as consumers and users, really can’t win when it comes to Big Data, and we are at the mercy of these big businesses to hopefully use the data for good (which, sadly, is unlikely; hooray for capitalism!).