In their book, The Human Face of Big Data, authors Rick Smolan and Jennifer Erwitt set the ball rolling by revealing some pretty startling stats, such as:
- Every two days, the human race is now generating as much data as was generated from the dawn of humanity through 2003.
- We are exposed to as much information in a day as our 15th-century ancestors were exposed to in a lifetime.
- In the first day of a baby’s life, the human race generates 70 times the information contained in the Library of Congress.
Just the humongous scale conveyed by the above statements is enough to overwhelm us! But the reality is that no matter who we are and what we do in our personal and professional lives, multi-dimensional data is already an integral part of our lives, and we need to not only come to terms with it, but also learn to harness it meaningfully. In fact, a vast body of experts today are immersed in evaluating data generated by some section or the other of the human society. And increasingly, it is their statistical analysis and interpretation that inform critical decisions made by businesses, governments, and organizations globally.
However, with so much focus on capturing, consuming and assessing data, it’s very easy to lose sight of the bigger picture. The fact that there are real people behind the numbers. People who are engaging in usually meaningful and often emotionally-charged activities – actions, communications, and transactions – that result in the millions of data points that marketers, researchers, and scientists then strive to categorize and scrutinize. Most of the time, more than the data itself, it’s the partially-hidden stories behind how, when, where and why the data was generated that can give us the real insights we need to make sense of it.
This is especially true in the events industry, where the entire premise is a large body of people meeting and interacting face to face, responding to each other’s stories and making quick decisions in a very dynamic environment. That is why, when we look at the data generated by people participating in an event, our effort should be focused on trying to understand and convey the human requirements, emotions, and decisions that made the crucial difference and triggered the key trends emerging from the data set. Only then will, as the information designer Girgia Lupi says in this recent TED Talk, “instead of using data only to become more efficient, we will all use data to become more human.” If that sounds too Utopian to be practical, I highly recommend tuning into the real-life examples Lupi shares in this video.
At a2z, we believe that, with processes becoming more automated, and technology increasingly easy to implement, the focus needs to shift back to keeping a finger on the pulse of the audience. In the second installment of this series, we’ll explore some practical techniques for making event data less unapproachable, and more human-centric. Watch this space!