'Global census' wants to put a human face on big data

'Global census' wants to put a human face on big data

As data visualisation artist Jer Thorpe says, it's easy to forget about the human elements that big data represents. And a new project, The Human Face of Big Data, is being touted as the biggest ever global census, as it aims to collect information from more than 20 countries via satellites, RFID tags and GPS-enabled cameras and smartphones.

the human face of big data project nzFrom September 26 The Human Face of Big Data will prompt Kiwis, among others, with questions about themselves on various topics (from sleep habits through to dating and sex) through apps over eight days; according to the site, users will be able to compare their answers with others and find their 'data doppelgangers'.

As well as the app, there are several other elements in the project. Come October 2, data collected from participants will be analysed and visualised at events staged in New York, London, and Singapore. In November, students around the world will take part in further data-collection activities through the Data Detectives initiative, and in 2013, The Human Face of Big Data documentary will be released.

Results will be announced in New Zealand on October 3 and visualised by journalist and photographer Rick Smolan.

“My goal with this project is to spark a global conversation about big data, about its potential if used wisely and the danger if we aren’t very careful," he says.

"Big data represents an extraordinary knowledge revolution that’s sweeping, almost invisibly, through business, academia, government, health care and everyday life. And, like all new tools, it carries the potential for unintended consequences. But if we are careful and wise, in the not too distant future this new set of technologies may have an impact on humanity as great as those of language and art.”

The project is being sponsored by technology company EMC, which told Computerworld that no identifying data would be collected and anyone who chose to take part would not be marketed to.

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