Data: The good, the bad and the beautiful: an interactive guide

data

Data is being created at an exponential rate: http://onesecond.designly.com/

Everyday industry and academics are coming up with novel ways to use this data and the possibilities that it brings are very promising. Bestselling books such as ‘The Signal and the Noise’ and Hollywood blockbusters such as Moneyball are popularizing the use of data. Data has been used to accurately predict elections, help baseball teams win the World Series and even predict which songs will be a number one hit. Data is also revolutionising healthcare not just in a social way so that patients can connect with other patients with similar illnesses (http://www.patientslikeme.com/) but also to digitize healthcare records and offer large scale analytics into what treatments are most effective, possible side effects to certain drugs and the general health of countries.

With great data comes great responsibility
This year a great documentary about personal data and information was released. Terms and Conditions May Apply (2013) is a documentary about uses of personal data and privacy (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yzyafieRcWE). In light of the media interest in the NSA and the ‘Whistle Blower’ Edward Snowdon, the film explores the potential risks of the huge amounts of information that companies have. From Facebook to your mobile phone bill records (http://www.ted.com/talks/malte_spitz_your_phone_company_is_watching.html) users can be tracked and monitored almost every second. What is clear from the uses of data in such ways is that people need to take more care about disclosing information and that legislation needs to be in place to oppose an Orwellian 1984-like world.

Big is Beautiful
Data isn’t always easy for humans to interpret however data visualisation is an emerging field which aims to convert data into a meaningful picture so that we can understand the important trends in data. The Guardian’s data blog is one such example which aims to tell interesting stories from large data sets (http://www.theguardian.com/news/datablog). Two other pioneers in the field are David McCandless and Chris Jordan who use infographics to mould data into masterpieces.

http://www.ted.com/talks/david_mccandless_the_beauty_of_data_visualization.html

http://www.ted.com/talks/chris_jordan_pictures_some_shocking_stats.html

You’ll find out more about this during coverage of the Economy topic later.

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