Is ‘Big Data’ About What We Do With Our Data Not How Much Of It We Have?

What is it about “big data” that resists definition? Today we have myriad competing definitions that each attempt to circumscribe just what it is we mean when we talk about the idea of using “big data” to understand the world around us. The notion that the size, speed or modality of data warrants such a label falls apart when we recognize that every Google search involves analyzing a 100-petabyte archive using hundreds of query terms.

Instead of referring to the size of our datasets, could “big data” refer to the way in which we utilize our data, regardless of its size? The question of just what constitutes “big data” has become a perennial point of debate in the digital world. Typically, most definitions relate to the characteristics of the data being analyzed, but such definitions become increasingly strained when we recognize that the most mundane of internet tasks, from conducting a Google search to querying Twitter all involve processing enormous volumes of multimodal material that is growing rapidly.

Author: Kalev Leetaru

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