Friday, June 14, 2013

What can we do with all this stuff

A somewhat long-winded column in the Washington Post made an interesting point: "Unfortunately, “data-driven” has become a conversation-ender, rather than a conversation-framer." The revolutions in computing and the internet have made it possible for us to aggregate and save massive volumes of data, more (perhaps) than we can really comprehend. That data can make us arrogant. After all, data can point out with statistical precision what is going on. Data can offer predictive powers to target advertisements to audiences most likely to act on those messages. 

But doesn't "margin of error" come up as an indispensable concept in interpreting data? 

I am concerned at the monolithic arrogance that comes with data. That columnist is right: often big data is an end to a conversation rather than a contribution to one. 

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