When I gave this talk at WebVisionsNYC last week, I had some big ambitions about Big Data – I wanted to convince the audience that as design and business leaders, we have the capability to make a difference in the world by ensuring our product and service ideas call for feedback mechanisms which will help us understand the impact we make on the world. Maybe I didn’t make my points well enough or maybe there’s just such a small percentage of people who care more about impacting the lives of their communities compared to those who care about a pretty watch. In any event, I want to impress on readers that we are at the edge of a disruption of how we effect change for the Greater Good through this notion of Big Data.

Exabytes of Data with No Human Factors

Big Data, Predictive Analytics, Machine Learning, the Internet of Things – this confluence of technologies and sciences is at the brink of our next revolution. It’s finally here – of course not like it was originally imagined by Sir Tim Berners Lee in the late-1980’s when the Cloud was called “Mesh.” Rather, it will be the hands of everyday people like you and me that craft technologies which access open data sources. We have the facility and the agency to manipulate data in a way that helps us make significant changes in our health and wellness, our environment, and our communities, but without a demand, why bother with a supply?

There are mountains data out there, but the value remains unclear. After the UX + Data Meetup this past week, I had a fantastic conversation with the organizer Matt Weber about what needs to happen for mission-oriented operations to make sense of the data structures and the algorithms needed to track the ripple-effects of their constituents. It comes down to considerations for the human factors of data usage. Everyday people need to understand the value. We’re still a ways off, but with the right motivations, we will be able to design systems that help data-driven decision making make it to the hands of the people who are passionate about serving the lives of others.

1) Costs for developing this systems need to come down

2) Education on “why” and “how” needs to go up

3) Designers need the tools to confidently make recommendations

Are you involving the data sciences in your design work? Do you have a plan to demonstrate impact from your design decisions? Have big ideas how we can bring Big Data to make an impact in the lives of the less fortunate? We’d love to hear your thoughts.


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