Big Data is not just for Scientists, Statisticians, etc. but also Photographers

I came across this article/Q&A titled “Eight Questions for Rick Smolan About the Human Face of Big Data.” Then, I thought to myself: “Who is Rick Smolan? What does he know about big data? And how does Big Data have a human face?”

Rick Smolan is a photographer who has done a lot of amazing work for Time, Life, National Geographic, etc., as well as a lot of personal work and self published books. His latest project/book, The Human Face of Big Data, is a book trying to visually explain big data, what it is, why it is important, etc. through the use of photography. While many people think of big data as just being numbers, he is trying to get rid of that notion and literally personalize and put a face to the idea of big data. In this article he says that the book is “cheerleading big data to the solutions to all our problem.” While I am not sure that I agree wholeheartedly that big data can solve all of our problems I do think with the right minds looking at and analyzing data, that big data can solve a lot of our problems.

After finding the article I was really intrigued by the project and wanted to learn more. I came across the video below, in which Smolan describes his project and its importance. He is obviously pitching/presenting it to someone, but I do not know to who (investors? clients?). At the end he states the they [the people working on the project] are not trying to be the definitive answer to/source of big data but are trying to give some fascinating examples on how big data is touching our lives. Watch the video and he will give you a couple examples already.

In addition to the video you an also check out the project’s website where you can get an inside look at the book.

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2 Responses to Big Data is not just for Scientists, Statisticians, etc. but also Photographers

  1. clairejwiggins says:

    I agree with you, Smolan’s idea is really interesting! Due to different techological advancements and changes in communication, this growth has left most of the world quite befuddled. Most people I know are completely ignorant about the (potential) power of big data. Smolan’s idea of describing different “human” uses of big data will hopefully help explain to the public how cool big data is, and how it could be used to totally change our lives. How it is changing our lives. I know that you don’t think that big data can solve ALL of our problems, but since there is no such thing as true absolutes anyways, I think that big data has the potential to definitely fix a lot of them.
    I looked at the project website page, and the book itself is really beautiful. While many people think of “big data” as a huge lists of figures, the images really help make the impacts of data generation and data sharing very real. I tried to pick my favorite section, but there were so many that I couldn’t decide! If anyone is reading my comment, I would highly suggest looking through the book on the link at the bottom of the original post “project website”.

  2. lzaima says:

    I wholeheartedly agree that big data needs some personality to it. After all, the face of big data is all of our faces, isn’t it? Anonymized user data and even identifiable private and public data can seem bland and abstract to many people. The catch is, big data directly affects everyone whether they care to know or not.

    As many problems as big data may solve, it is likely that it will cause just as many if not more problems. What happens when our private data becomes so public that companies and government agencies will literally guide our lives at each and every step? Will we be told what groceries to buy? What clothes to wear? Who to hang out with? What kind of freedoms are we losing or gaining from the growth of big data? It frustrates me sometimes knowing that the public is not critical of their own personal information. I blame it partly on the fact that big data and online information is not well explained and not well illustrated to the public. This brings me back to your post; yes, we should make big data vivid and engaging, both the positive and the negative aspects of it.

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