Many tech start ups and advertising firms are predicting big things from Big Data, but gathering unprecedented amounts of personal information, mostly through people’s smartphones, will not prove as lucrative as they think, said Wharton business school professor Peter Fader. “Too many people think that mobile is a ‘whole new world,’ offering stunning insights into behaviors that were inconceivable before,” said Fader. “But many of the basic patterns are surprisingly consistent across these platforms.” In other words, thanks to electronic data, we already understand a good deal about how people behave.
What’s the Big Idea?
At the dawn of Big Data, when information was rolling in but nobody had developed methods for analyzing it all, there was a sense that every piece of information could one day yield important discoveries. That day is gone, said Fader. Today, we have many effective tools for analyzing data, allowing data scientists to keep just the important figures they need. Beware the Big Data zealot with a ‘data fetish’, warned Fader, describing anyone who wants to keep every piece of data, hoping that it may “someday” yield something of value.
Facebook and Twitter enable us to share ideas and discoveries with incredible speed and efficiency. At the same time, there’s a growing awareness that our identities in these virtual spaces are being constrained in ways we’re only beginning to understand.