Datafication


Kenneth Neil Cukier, data-editor at the Economist and co-author of  “Big Data”: A Revolution That Will Transform How We Live, Work, and Think (listen to an interview with Kenneth on NPR) recently explained at Big Think a new term that describes how data mediates our lives: Datafication.

“Datafication refers to the fact that we’re looking at more aspects of life that we never actually understood as being informational before.  And finding out that that in fact there is an informational quality to it that we can render into a data format. So what we’re seeing with social media companies is they’re actually datafying aspects of the life that we never really saw that could be datafied. So for example Facebook datafies our friendships. Twitter datafies our whispers or maybe our stray thoughts.  And LinkedIn datafies our professional contacts.  And more and more and more are we seeing that we’re able to take the daily interactions of living, things that we never really saw that can be rendered into a data format and we’re putting it into data formats.”

Potential of datafication for re-imagining governance? Kenneth:

“you can just use your imagination and think of some of the extraordinary uses.  One way that we’re doing it is looking at who contacts whom on Twitter and who’s one’s followers are.  And we’re able to identify that, and we never known this before that subpopulations exist that are either immunized for the flu or are not.  Now it’s a public health issue.  The whole point of vaccinations is that you take a broad population, you vaccinate many but not all and everyone is covered. What we’ve just now learned with Twitter is that this idea of herd immunity might not be the case because there’s whole subgroups of the population that all don’t get vaccinated yet they all hang out together.  They do virtually and we’re seeing that those virtual ties are also physical ties.  I want to stress this sounds like it might be an intuitive thing.  It’s not.  It sounds like this might just be a nice thing to know, it’s deadly important.  It’s very serious.”

Watch the Video of Kenneth on Datafication: