The world is projected to produce eight zettabytes of digital content by 2015, the equivalent of over 100 million years of video, big data expert Martha Stone told attendees of Northwestern University in Qatar’s symposium on Tuesday 19 November.
Eighty percent of this data, she said, continues to be unstructured and disorganized, especially as it is generated by audiences on platforms such as Twitter
Stone, who is a fellow at the University of Oxford’s Reuter’s Institute and leads the World Newsmedia Network, gave a presentation on the use of big data in surveillance, and urged her audience to be mindful and responsible in their use of big data.
According to Stone, the PRISM program created by the US National Security Agency to track information costs $20 million dollars. “It remains unclear yet what the [US] government is doing with the vast data that is being collated and analyzed by artificial intelligence.”
Big data is a label used to describe data sets with sizes and complexities well beyond the capabilities of day-to-day statistical software. Analysts argue that the rise of digital and mobile communications have accelerated the growth of these immense databases.During her presentation at NU-Q’s symposium “Big Data, Smart Media? Connecting Content, Audience and Information,” Stone also announced that World Newsmedia Network would be holding their next big data conference at the Microsoft headquarters in 2014.
Panelists included Mohammed Haddad, an interactive journalist at Al Jazeera Network
who is responsible for creating visualizations in the newsroom. Haddad reminded the young journalists that data is an abstraction of the real world and that its presence on a screen should not deter them from “going out and getting [your] own data.”
“You must ask yourself how much detail your audience is actually looking for,” said Haddad. “The story is in the outlier, but the story might also be that there is no data.”
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