Friday, 18 February 2011

Understanding Data - What is data?

I try to keep with with what's going on in the digital world. There is always a LOT happening! New innovations, new ways to use social media, great stories and examples, buzz words. I get most of this information via the people I follow on twitter. It's impossible to keep up with everything but one area that has caught my attention is Data.

I've dipped my toe in, read a bit here and there online, followed links and got a taste for it, but I was still left with the question: What is data?

I had formed a rough idea in my mind, but I wasn't convinced that I really understood what it was or what it was for.

But now I do!

Yesterday I went on a wonderful conference that explained it all: City as a Platform - The Future for the Creative Industries?

I'll have to keep this post succinct as time isn't on my side today, but the conference was enlightening.

This is very much in lay mans terms, but here goes!

What is data? Data is information that is collected and presented in an easily digestible way. The information can take many forms; photographs, statistics, locations, stories, financial, history - you name it really!

What does data look like? Data can be presented in many ways, such as graphs and charts, to more creative and artistic ways. See the video below for a very creative and easy to understand example of visually presenting data.

Where does data come from? It can come from any source! What are you interested in? There will be data somewhere for that (though it might need to be collated!). Do you want to know how your council spends money? Do you want to know how many people used your local library in February 2008? Perhaps you are interested in health statistics, or how many photographs there are of your town taken in 1950?

Who can benefit from data? Anyone. From the government, schools, students, health bodies, corporations, small businesses, bloggers, and individuals who would like the data for personal or research reasons.

From the conference yesterday there are clearly people and companies that 'get' data and are making great progress with it. They are finding out how to access data, how to present it and how to make it accessible, and how to use it in many different ways.

My impression is that overall we are in the very early stages of data, and I'm curious to see what will be happening to/with data in 5 years time for example. How much will 'data' be a familiar term with more people and not just those in the know as it were? How are we going to get the data to more people that can benefit from it and use it? ( I say 'we', but I'm just on the periphery looking in).

The conference was quite timely as we are doing some data work at Talk About Local, so I feel more confident about that now I have a better understanding.

Here is the video I mentioned above. Hans Rosling's 200 Countries, 200 Years, 4 Minutes - The Joy of Stats - BBC Four It really is worth a watch. A brilliant example of data collection and putting it together in a visual (and entertaining!) way.

If I wasn't pushed for time today I'd have put a ton of links on this post to all the interesting talks, companies and individuals from the conference. Luckily Meshed Media have done a great job in putting all the interesting stuff in one place, over on the City As A Platform posterous blog. Whether data is new to you, or you have a lot of knowledge, there are some great links, information, examples and stories there!


Anonymous said...

Well it's past 4am and I'm not out and about with my Canon 500D, but like the concept.. Photography is an equal passion of mine as well as data.

So speaking on topic of Data & Birmingham "CAAP" - I could not attend the event but I do work with data and presenting data as a full time job for a Birmingham law firm. If you'd like to know more then please get in touch.

Karen Strunks said...

Hi Gav,

Thank you for your comment, at 4am! There'll be another Bham 4am event coming up in April, hope you can take part!

Got a lot out to CAAP as you can probably tell. Curious as to what data law firms present. will drop you a tweet :)

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