On 7 July Dr Julia Kasmire, our resident computational social science expert, featured on a special BBC Radio 4 programme on big data. She spoke with Spencer Kelly from the BBC’s Click programme about what we mean by ‘big data’ and how important insights can be gained from the vast quantities of data we generate in our everyday lives.
As Julia explained, “walking into the BBC HQ was very impressive. The big sweeping curves of the glass building were famous and I was a little awed, but the Click team put me at ease, made it clear what they wanted and answered all my questions.
“The actual discussion went really well too! I was able to talk about big data from the perspective of my own research in computational social science as well as from the perspective of a member of the UK Data Service. That means that I could answer questions as a researcher but also as someone who has an interest in holding and securing data.”
Julia was struck by the different views that exist on big data, both positive and negative. As she notes, “some people seem to be really fearful about how big data could be misused, but others are very optimistic about what progress can be made. And there are a lot of reasons to hold both views!
“Big data holds so much potential to review important and interesting patterns about human experience, choices, needs and behaviours. Identifying those patterns can allow us to make changes that benefit us all. At the same time, patterns could be identified by people with selfish intentions to tip the scales in their own favour.
“Like all new technologies, the pros and cons come down to how it is used, so knowing more about big data will allow us all to make informed decisions that protect the potential gains while preventing abuse. It will be hard because things are changing so rapidly in this space, but it is very important to learn and act.“