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How Can Thick Data Improve the Way We Use Big Data?

Troy Sadkowsky - Friday, June 30, 2017

 

April 16, 2017

TedTalk: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WaOUJa9fjXU

Medium: https://medium.com/ethnography-matters/why-big-data-needs-thick-data-b4b3e75e3d7

Big data can help us solve problems, optimize services, predict the future and learn more about ourselves and human behavior. But when big data cannot answer a question, or makes an incorrect prediction, what if it is because data is not telling us the whole story?

In a Ted Talk and an article on Medium, Tricia Wang, a technology ethnographer, implores us to realize that, even in the age of data-driven decision making, big data can have some serious blind spots, and often suffers from a loss of context through valuable variables and trends that defy quantification.

Insights on contained systems, such as electricity grids or delivery logistics, have established big data’s reputation for success. Although this reputation has attracted investment from a huge array of companies, Wang claims, 73% of big data projects are not profitable, because big data projects frequently do not produce the insights that they seem to promise. For dynamic systems, especially those that depend on human emotions, behavior, and how people are impacted and interact with their environment, certain variables are difficult to measure and model.

She describes how opportunities can be gained and losses diminished by using big data in conjugation with “thick data”, observations that use qualitative methods to understand human emotions, behaviors and interactions with context. For example, the realization by ethnographer Graham McCracken that Netflix users actually enjoy binge-watching, led Netflix to redesign their user experience, improve their business and transform the way we consume media. Through qualitative research and collecting stories about how users interact with their product, Netflix was able to go to their data science team, validate these findings, and act on this competitive insight.

Wang summarizes that while “Thick Data loses scale…Big Data loses resolution.” While big data analytics can have a huge sample size, recognize large-scale patterns, and benefit from the strengths of machine learning, thick data uses small samples sizes, but understands subjects at a much greater depth, and benefits from aspects of human intelligence and pattern recognition that still elude computer programs. As data scientists, the more we understand the limitations of our methods and pay attention to thick data, the more we can recognize the factors and variables our data is missing. With a more holistic perspective, data analysis is better poised to uncover more truthful and powerful insights.

 

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How Can Thick Data Improve the Way We Use Big Data?

Troy Sadkowsky - Friday, June 30, 2017

 

April 16, 2017

TedTalk: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WaOUJa9fjXU

Medium: https://medium.com/ethnography-matters/why-big-data-needs-thick-data-b4b3e75e3d7

Big data can help us solve problems, optimize services, predict the future and learn more about ourselves and human behavior. But when big data cannot answer a question, or makes an incorrect prediction, what if it is because data is not telling us the whole story?

In a Ted Talk and an article on Medium, Tricia Wang, a technology ethnographer, implores us to realize that, even in the age of data-driven decision making, big data can have some serious blind spots, and often suffers from a loss of context through valuable variables and trends that defy quantification.

Insights on contained systems, such as electricity grids or delivery logistics, have established big data’s reputation for success. Although this reputation has attracted investment from a huge array of companies, Wang claims, 73% of big data projects are not profitable, because big data projects frequently do not produce the insights that they seem to promise. For dynamic systems, especially those that depend on human emotions, behavior, and how people are impacted and interact with their environment, certain variables are difficult to measure and model.

She describes how opportunities can be gained and losses diminished by using big data in conjugation with “thick data”, observations that use qualitative methods to understand human emotions, behaviors and interactions with context. For example, the realization by ethnographer Graham McCracken that Netflix users actually enjoy binge-watching, led Netflix to redesign their user experience, improve their business and transform the way we consume media. Through qualitative research and collecting stories about how users interact with their product, Netflix was able to go to their data science team, validate these findings, and act on this competitive insight.

Wang summarizes that while “Thick Data loses scale…Big Data loses resolution.” While big data analytics can have a huge sample size, recognize large-scale patterns, and benefit from the strengths of machine learning, thick data uses small samples sizes, but understands subjects at a much greater depth, and benefits from aspects of human intelligence and pattern recognition that still elude computer programs. As data scientists, the more we understand the limitations of our methods and pay attention to thick data, the more we can recognize the factors and variables our data is missing. With a more holistic perspective, data analysis is better poised to uncover more truthful and powerful insights.

 

Comments
sparepart honda commented on 14-Aug-2019 03:08 PM
Asking questions are truly good thing if you are not understanding something totally,
except this post gives good understanding even.
bohrhammer Bosch oder makita commented on 14-Aug-2019 03:25 PM
Vielen Dank! Wollt ich nur sagen.
ozdoby slubne, commented on 14-Aug-2019 03:31 PM
What i don't realize is if truth be told how you are
now not really much more well-liked than you may be now.
You are so intelligent. You recognize therefore significantly
relating to this matter, made me in my view consider
it from numerous varied angles. Its like men and women are not fascinated
unless it's one thing to accomplish with Woman gaga! Your own stuffs great.

All the time deal with it up!
Pert.leadin.xyz commented on 14-Aug-2019 03:41 PM
Plus, there are several videos, movies, and novels that further
enhance its popularity. Since city courses never allow refunds,
everybody chose to stick it out a bit further.
Naruto Shippuuden will be the story of Naruto Uzumaki, inside original
animated TV series Naruto.
Keto Charge Plus commented on 14-Aug-2019 03:44 PM
I really like it when people come together and share thoughts.
Great blog, continue the good work!
Pat commented on 14-Aug-2019 03:49 PM
Spot on with this write-up, I really think this website needs much more attention. I�ll probably be back again to read more, thanks for the advice!


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I'm really enjoying the theme/design of your website. Do you ever run into any browser compatibility problems? A couple of my blog visitors have complained about my blog not operating correctly in Explorer but looks great in Firefox. Do you have any tips to help fix this issue?
pokemon go joystick ios no computer commented on 14-Aug-2019 04:29 PM
The other day, while I was at work, my cousin stole my iPad and tested to see if it can survive a forty foot drop, just so she can be a youtube sensation. My apple ipad is now destroyed and she has 83 views. I know this is totally off topic but I had to share it with someone!
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thanks
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