Datafication– Reflects the Past and Drives the Future: A Revolution That is Changing How We Live, Work, Think…

Datafication is the transformation of our entire world into oceans of data that can be explored– and providing a new perspective on reality. Datafication takes all aspects of life, and transforms it into a data format that makes it quantified; for example, Twitter datafies stray thoughts, LinkedIn datafies professional networks… Once things are datafied, we can transform their purpose and turn the data into new forms of value…

Ultimately, datafication marks the moment when our information society finally fulfills the promise implied by its name… Data are center stage: All those digital bits that have been gathered can now be harnessed in novel ways to serve new purposes and unlock new forms of value. But it requires a new way of thinking; datafication is a resource and a tool and it’s meant to inform, rather than explain it points toward understanding but its still lead to misunderstanding, depending on how well it’s wielded…

So how is datafication being used to shape our business activities and create new forms of values? Collecting data is not enough; it depends on how data is used to unlock its values, not only its primary use but also its reuse– its option value. In other words, quantifying things that we didn’t previously think to quantify. One way that we are probably being datafied right now is by location: Smartphone applications draw upon our real-time geographic coordinates to recommend– restaurants, events…

Social media also lends an interesting perspective on how society is now datafied… These online interactions can shed much light into our social dynamics and cultural future. These examples are just the tip of the iceberg, showing that datafication can apply to just about anything. Even though datafication holds enormous opportunity and value, there are negative impacts on privacy and sense of freedom… We didn’t used to look at our friends and view them as a rich source for data, but Facebook changed that by datafying friends

Similarly, we never used to think of our whispers, stray thoughts, professional networks as data-producing entities. Yet, according to Kenneth Cukier; Twitter, LinkedIn… changed that too. In short, we are datifying many aspects of our lives that we never actually thought as being informational before… and we’re just at the outset of the datafication era… consider all the potential uses of datafication as we move forward into the future...

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In the article New Buzzword: Datafication by Jeff Bertolucci writes: Just when you thought you had mastered all the data-riffic buzzwords out there, another rears its trendy head. We’re talking about datafication; the notion that organizations today are dependent upon data to operate properly– and perhaps even to function at all.

According to Andrew Waitman; datafication is a different concept– what’s happening in the world of data is that more businesses are fundamentally data businesses. Even if you think of– online retail, online grocery stores… they don’t operate without data infrastructure.

According to Waitman; you could argue that no online business could be operating without their backend data infrastructure… As trends go, datafication is not new: Many multinational corporations have processed and analyzed massive data sets for decades, but with little fanfare. For example, financial, energy, retail… were early adopters of data-style analysis…

Walmart and Target have been doing large data analysis for years– storing large volumes of customer data– and than later going back and doing post-analysis of that data. Google has done big data analysis since it started for optimizing their search engines… The ubiquity of powerful and personalized computing devices combined with– store everything mentality– has made it easier for organizations to analyze huge data sets.

Decades ago, people had to make decisions on the metrics they needed and the specific data type that they were going to store in the mainframe computers. But now you store everything, and do a post-facto query. In today’s big data world, organizations typically capture and store all information, even if they’re not sure what insights the data will provide…

In the article Rise of Big Data, Big Brother by Cathy O’Neil writes: Datafication is an interesting concept: We are being datafied or rather our actions are and when we ‘like’ someone or something online, we are intending to be datafied or at least we should expect to be. But when we merely browse the web, we are unintentionally or at least passively being datafied through cookies that we might or might not be aware. And when we walk around in stores or even on streets, we are being datafied in completely unintentional way

This spectrum of intentionality ranges from us gleefully taking part in a social media experiment we are proud of to all-out surveillance and stalking. But it’s all datafication. Our intentions may run the gambit, but the results don’t… Once we datafy things, we can transform their purpose and turn the information into new forms of value. But, who is ‘we’ and what kind of value? If you assumed that ‘we’ means– the people– then, you might re-think it, since ‘we’ really means– companies, governments… and they are becoming more efficient with datafication.

According to Cukier-Mayer-Schoenberger; the datafication revolution consists of three things: 1. Collecting and using a lot of data rather than small samples. 2. Accepting messiness in your data. 3. Giving up on knowing the causes. They describe these steps in rather grand fashion by claiming that datafication doesn’t need to understand causes because the data is so enormous. It doesn’t need to worry about sampling error because it’s literally keeping track of the truth– it’s all really about understanding what we can do with data and the potential behind it…

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In the article Datafication: Lens of How We See Ourselves by Lyndsay Grant writes: Datafication is both backward-facing, representing what has happened so far and also forward-facing, driving future behavior… Yet the way that datafication informs future action is not always straightforward… While providing an illusion of certainty and control, the data itself only provides a starting point for asking more questions…

Facebook is a prime example of how datafication attempts to influence our behavior, for example; displaying numbers of our– likes, shares, comments, friends… Facebook encourages its users to spend more time on the site creating and sharing content, which will increase our numbers and that provides more valuable data about us, which makes it easier for marketers to effectively target us with advertisements…

The use of data to drive online behavior does not stop at Facebook. By using cookies to track interaction across multiple sites and then aggregating this information, marketers get an even more accurate and nuanced picture of who you are, and therefore  advertisements you are more likely to respond to… The effects of datafication also arguably extend to our offline behavior, and influence how we see ourselves and the world around us. If numbers of our– friends, likes, comments… are what drives our interaction online, then particular attitudes and perspectives are being cultivated that we may carry offline…

While datafication may give the illusion of more certainty about us and our world, it does not in itself provide final answers. If data is to open up opportunities for thinking and acting differently in the future, it can only ever really succeed in posing more questions… According to Dawn Nafus; this is the more-and-yet-less quality of data. Measuring data gives more information, but only succeeds in posing more questions about what data really means…

Datafication exposes variability and enhances value: Companies use data to create better products, airlines use data to plan flights at times… Datafication leads also to improved decision-making, e.g., companies like Proctor and Gamble use their data to plan expansions into new markets…

According to an MIT Sloan study; companies that utilize data driven decision-making have seen 5-6% greater output and productivity than what was expected… A recent McKinsey report says; the next frontier for innovation is in healthcare, and if data is used creatively and effectively it will drive efficiency and quality, which could create more than $300 billion in value every year...

According to Viktor Mayer Schönberger-Kenneth Cukier; the scale of datafication allows us to extract new insights and create new forms of value in ways that will fundamentally change how we interact with one another. These new insights can be used for good or for ill, but that’s true of any new piece of knowledge, but what is most disconcerting about datafication– it’s on a direct collision course with our traditional privacy paradigms

The fear is that well-meaning organizations may become so fixated on the data and so obsessed with the power and promise it offers that they will fail to appreciate its limitations… According to Kate Crawford; datafication is full of hidden biases… data and data sets are not objective, they are creations of human design… Organizations and individuals must become more aware of the biases and assumptions that underlie the datafied world.

According to Jules Polonetsky and Omer Tene; organizations must disclose the logic underlying their decision-making processes, as best as possible, without compromising their algorithmic– secret sauce. This information has two key benefits: it allows us to monitor how data is used and it also allows individuals to become more active participants in how their data is used…

According to Paul Vallée; while many organizations are coming to grips with the brute impact of the data explosion, others are already starting to experience some of its deeper consequences… Businesses create trillions of bytes of data each day. People share more than 30 billion pieces of content a month on Facebook… Passive devices like sensors in cars, computers, smartphones, energy meters… log trillions of bytes…

Datafication is a resource and a tool. It is meant to inform, rather than explain; it points toward understanding but it can still lead to misunderstanding, depending on how well it is wielded. And, however dazzling the power of datafication may appear, we must not be blinded by its inherent imperfections… Rather, we must adopt the technology with an appreciation not just of its power, but also of its limitations…