When we talk today about using “big data” to understand human society, we typically mean using “social media” data. In the social sciences “big data” and “social media” have become increasingly interchangeable due to the widespread availability of large social media datasets and their machine-friendly distribution firehoses and archives.
Yet, accessible social media reflects only the narrowest windows of human society, blinding us to many of the areas and events we are most interested in. In contrast, other datasets like traditional news media far surpass both the geographic and temporal reach of social media. These alternative data sources remain largely inaccessible to most data mining efforts due to the lack of observational time series datasets and tools that would allow researchers to ask the questions they are most interested in.
Author: Kalev Leetaru