Data Are Big

Article excerpt

If you thought that we'd never finish talking about social media, there's some good news. The latest buzz on the conference circuit this year is data ... more precisely, Big Data. Though it's only March, I've already heard an earful. So Big Data is big news, but what the heck is it?

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George Strawn, who heads the U.S. government's Networking and Information Technology Research and Development Program, defined Big Data in a keynote address to workshop participants as, officially, "data whose size, velocity, or complexity is beyond the ability of commonly used software tools to capture, manage, and/or process within a tolerable elapsed time."

It's the data spitting out of remote sensors. It's the endless flow of tweets on Twitter. It's the facts and photos and articles and videos. It's a whole boatload of stuff. And when you bring it all together, you don't just get analytics--you get collective consciousness, you get shared intelligence, you get common knowledge, and you get the answers to questions you couldn't even ask before. You may even find wisdom written between the lines.

Big Data has lots of implications for information professionals, but so does small data. Be it sensor data, datasets from published reports, databases such as GenBank, supplementary materials to published research, or personal datasets, there are roles for archivists, curators, and librarians to play. …