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What is big data?

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Updated: 20 marzo, 2013


«To T. S. Eliot’s prescient words ‘Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge? Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?’ we might now add, ‘Where is the information we have lost in data?'»

That was – according to Harvard Business School emeritus Prof. James Heskett- Paul Nicholas’ reaction after reading most of the responses to his April 2012 column on the so-called big data. Inmediatly adding:

The challenges Big Data pose for managers include «identifying which data are relevant» (Subrata Chakraborty) and «seeing through the woods to know what to use and what not» (Pieter J de Beer). Scott Waller expressed the fear that «the age of Big Data seems to be arriving at the time of death for the Big Thinker.» Gerald Nanninga cautioned us that «the big risk is that it gives executives a false sense of comfort.» Clifford Francis Baker added, «My concern is primarily focused on the possibility of complacency … data derived from data analytics must … be handled with care.»

Mok Tuck Sung commented that «technology and knowledge advancement have again developed faster than the managers’ and business owners’ capabilities to leverage its usefulness in their decision making process.» Philippe Gouamba reminded us that «perfection is but an illusion … A successful outcome is almost never the result of perfect information.» (… read more)

Heskett ended his analysis with more questions and a list of recommended lectures:

This all raises many questions. Will the age of big data eliminate most or all uncertainty from business decisions for those most able to make effective use of «all the facts in the world?» Will it fuel the next «gold rush» for talent in a quest for competitive advantage? Will analytics, as well as the supply of analytics-savvy managers, so badly lag «big data» that it will only lead to confusion and misguided decisions? Or is this just the latest management fad? How, if at all, should this affect education for management? What do you think?

To read more:

Charles Duhigg, The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do and How to Change It , Random House, 2012.

Quentin Hardy, Just the Facts. Yes, All of Them, The New York Times, March 25, 2012.

Steve Lohr, The Age of Big Data, The New York Times, February 12, 2012.

The challenge—and opportunity—of ‘big data’, McKinsey Global Institute, May 2011.


Nearly one year later, a twitt from Reuters called my attention:

What is Big Data? Research roundup, reading list’s+Resource …) via @journoresource

Business, Digital Democracy, Internet, News Media

What is Big Data? Research roundup, reading list

Tags: , , ,

“Big Data” is an emerging, catch-all term that is defined many ways by many different groups. For the media, it’s a phenomenon to watch, describe and report on, but it also has deep implications for how the information business itself may evolve, carrying with it both the strong possibility of further disruption and creative opportunities. “Journalism by numbers does not mean ceding human process to the bots,” writes Emily Bell in the September/October 2012 issue of Columbia Journalism Review, adding, “There must be transparency and a set of editorial standards underpinning the data collection.”

As researchers danah boyd and Kate Crawford state in a 2012 article in Information, Communication & Society, Big Data is best described as a phenomenon playing out in several dimensions: It is about “maximizing computation power and algorithmic accuracy to gather, analyze, link, and compare large data sets”; it is also about “drawing on large data sets to identify patterns in order to make economic, social, technical, and legal claims.” Behind all of this, the researchers note with skepticism, is the “widespread belief that large data sets offer a higher form of intelligence and knowledge that can generate insights that were previously impossible, with the aura of truth, objectivity, and accuracy.” (read more) 

More articles on Big data:Business, Digital Democracy, Internet, News Media from Journalists’ Resource (Joan Shorenstein Center, Harvard): 

Mr Anderson @kevglobal 

MT @timoreilly: «Big data is what happened when the cost of keeping information became

less than the cost of throwing it away.»-George Dyson

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