JISC Digital Festival 2014 – Notes Day 1 (Cont…)

The other presentation I attended on day 1 of the festival was that given by Prof. David de Roure of the  University of Oxford.  He spoke on “Big Data for the Social Sciences“, which I hoped would be relevant to my own work on Learning Analytics.  This blog post is my notes from his talk.

How does technology get used in research?

-> What is this new “big data” and what does it tell us?

  • Big data does not respect disciplinary boundaries
  • Data has been around a long time
  • There is a lot of “hype” around big data that has led to inflated expectations of it
  • Can consider 2013 as the year we sort to define big data and 2014 the year we begun to use it effectively
  • It is big data because of both the velocity and volume of the data being generated
  • “Data deluge” is now a phenomenon across the disciplines
  • In the past analysis moved from the universities to business, now it is from the business world to the universities.
  • There is  huge unsatisfied demand for “data scientists”
  • Mores Law vs The Big Social

Moore's Law vs Big Social diagram

  • We use digital tools because it is the ecosystem – Research 2.0
  • What is the relevance of Social Science to Big Data?
    • We need to think through the implications
  • RCUK’s definition of “big data” is: big enough that we can’t deal with it as we did before
  • Why do we want it?
    • To do things in new ways
    • To do new things
    • e.g. Twitter data – we can look at the evolution of social processes in real-time
  • We need the expertise of those from classical Social Science
    • e.g. food vs consumption
    • can obtain new data from new sources (e.g. supermarket loyalty cards)
  • We can use different data sets to correlate
  • Real-time uses of big data, e.g. Twitter
    • spread of infectious diseases
    • riots
  • Visualisation can lead to better analysis
  • Underpinned by available infrastructure
  • Wikipedia is an example of  a social medium
    • behaviorally it is socially constructed
    • different in different countries/languages

— end —

Twitter, blogging and the use of social tools

This is a reworking of a post in Cloudworks on a Twitter vs Blogging debate, see:

The way I use Twitter and Blogs both in authoring and reading modes varies over time depending on what I am working on; the time I give to the online world; my mood; the status of my social connections (face to face and online) and probably many other factors. Twitter currently helps me discoverer blog posts of interest; but blogs help me reflect; they both have their roles.

Further, the whole point of social software is that is use evolves socially. The technologies have particular affordances that lend themselves better to different types of interaction but I “believe” (ironically as a I am by background a systems engineer) that it is the social development of this use that takes precedence over the technical factors in determining which tools become dominant in terms of usage.

We use the tools that enable us to keep in contact with our existing social networks or discover or construct new networks. Now different people use the same tools for different and multiple purposes. This can generate levels of “noise” that some find intolerable. In attempts to mange the noise levels they may filter posts, constrain their networks or shift to alternative tools.

I don’t think this situation will converge to the dominant use of a single tool or even small set of tools for long periods of time. Twitter will have a finite life time.

I find the desire of humans to communicate and our inventiveness in ways of doing it over the millennia fascinating. Web 2.0 is a tiny blip in that. How much better a society we construct though if we do effectively communicate.