What’s the Big Deal about Big Data? What Makes Big Data Valuable

IMG_1481“It’s not about the data. That’s not what the innovation is here.” So began Gary King, the director of Harvard’s Institute for Quantitative Social Science, in a talk he made this summer on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. to an audience filled with policymakers and fellow academics. The event was hosted by SAGE Publishing with co-sponsors the American Political Science Association and the American Statistical Association.

In a series of 10 videos from that event, titled “The big deal about big data,” King hammers home two themes: First, it’s not the data itself that’s revolutionary, but the analysis of it. “The value is not the data,” he says. “It’s not the big, it’s the analytics.” And second, the data revolution’s outputs are genuinely, well, revolutionary, as his examples demonstrate.

The second of those videos, featuring King’s framing remarks about data and analysis, appears below. In it he explains how data itself is increasingly easy to come by, so much so that if an institution “pays any attention at all” by the end of the year it will have more. The secret to unlocking value from this commodity, he continues, is “learning how to make the data actionable.”

Despite this, he still likes use of the term “big data” because it gives the wider public, from his own mom to the news media, an understanding of what computational social scientists — like King himself, a political scientist — do. “The public genuinely gets this now,” he says, before adding a small caveat: “Well, they don’t completely get it, but they get it much more than they did previously.”

Videos in the series

  1. Ziyad Marar On The Opportunities That Big Data Provides Social Scientists
  2. What Makes Big Data Valuable?
  3. Examples: Exciting Data That Is Useless Without Analytics
  4. Example: Social Scientists Determine Cause Of Death At A Distance
  5. Example: Analysis Rids Social Security Forecasts Of Bias
  6. Example: New Data Methods Combat Gerrymandering
  7. Example: Big Data Much Better Than People At Determining Keywords
  8. Example: Watching Chinese Citizens Get Around Censorship
  9. Example: Learning The Real Reason For Chinese Censorship
  10. The Spectacular Success Of Quantitative Social Science
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