Nicholas Carr: Big Data vs. Right Data

A Google search on the phrase “big data” produces 2.1 billion results, ranging from analyst reports and news coverage to industry events and product offerings. While advances in computer processing power, networking and storage have enabled us to glean new insights from massive quantities of data, is more always better?

Nicholas Carr, author of The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains, asserts that we should shift the conversation from “big” data to “right” data. Carr suggests the information overload that comes with big data in fact inhibits creativity and productivity.

Watch Carr discuss how businesses can succeed by leveraging smart filtering and sensing technologies to provide consumers with the right data at the right time, to sense when people require an abundance of data and when they require “quieter space” for reflection.

  1. Innovation – Beyond the Infrastructure (3:30)
  2. Democratization of Computing Power (1:55)
  3. The Explosion of Apps (2:08)
  4. The Convergence of Media & Entertainment and Software (3:08)
  5. Big Data vs. Right Data (2:19)

There’s been a lot of excitement recently about what’s often termed big data. Once you have these central stores of information, then you have opportunities to analyze it in new ways and create new insights. I think big data is going to be important in some areas; not necessarily for every company because sometimes we’re going to find that simply crunching the numbers isn’t going to give the insights you’re looking for. There will be some segments where large-scale data analysis is going to be very, very important. I think it would also be wise to look at the other side of data supply; not so much big data as “right” data. The right data at the right moment for what a person happens to be doing, whatever task they’re engaged in.

Until today, the entire IT industry has been very much focused on more, faster; getting as much information out there as possible all the time. What we know about the way we work, the way we think, is that it’s not always smart to inundate ourselves with information. Often, we begin to suffer from information overload and our productivity goes down, our creativity goes down. One of the big challenges, or opportunities, for the technology industry is figuring out how to shape the information we supply to the cognitive mental functions of the people who are receiving the information? How do we sense when people need a lot of information, and want to choose from a whole array of incoming data, and when they need quieter space to think deeply about something, to attend to a particular challenge or task without interruptions, without distractions? We haven’t been very good at that challenge; that shaping the information environment to the individual. I think the companies that can figure out the secret to doing that, are going to gain a lot of rewards in the future.