Big Data: The Heroine?

By: Mathew Roberts

The CE3 Brown Bag lunch series is coming to a close for the fall semester. CE3 Director Scott Miller and I have been brainstorming who would lead the talks in the spring and further build dialogue among students, faculty, and researchers. This past Friday, I finally found an open time to stumble into the multidimensional world of big data and how it plays out in environmentally related discourse.

Dr. Ani Ruhil, associate professor and associate director of Research and Graduate Programs, spoke at the CE3 Brown Bag lunch series last fall. He amazed me with his talk about the mass amounts of information the digital world has captured.

What I gained in this short lecture is how this discipline takes form as both risk and opportunity.  This world of cloud computing and storage, analytical predication, and coded language is historically unprecedented. Big data has done what journalism may have intended to do from birth: record man’s deeds and be the keeper of his conscience.

The total amount of information in existence is equal to roughly 1.2 zettabytes (or over 1.3 trillion gigabytes [1] ). Our everyday lives revolve around shuffling megabytes and gigabytes across borders and boundaries. The concept of all digital information as a real measurement is astounding.

MATROBERTS pic

Big data is increasingly important in the economy. Big players such as Google and Facebook make their fortunes by accumulating, analyzing, and selling users’ data, much like an investment broker does with stocks on Wall Street.

Big data is integrated into my own work as well. As a CE3 Undergraduate Research Scholar, I have had the great opportunity to explore data on Ohio’s competitiveness in energy production and restoration of local watersheds from acid mine drainage. Journalists are highly dependent on statistics and figures of national and local governments’ regulations, policies, and procedures. They take big data to convey messages in understanding the environmental impacts and how it can be taken to foster sustainable action. In my previous work in creative advertising, big data offered a way to pinpoint markets, test effectiveness, and share marketing research in an effort to create an advertising campaign for national and international brands. In the end, big data is all about predicting behaviors and translating data through analytical tools.

In today’s culture, data is being used to convey points, connect links and inform in the face of great political debate. The product of this initiative has manifested into “data visualization” and it’s becoming widely popular.

This analysis can be used to create a better tomorrow — for example, by saving thousands of lives by improving healthcare. But it also can create uneven distributions of power when people, corporations, or agencies begin looking in places they should not.

Which brings us back to environmental issues. I bring this up because of the irreversibility and costs of using data the wrong way. If we accidently mine too much coal or drill too many wells and create a bigger cost in cleaning up water, we will need more data and money to clean up what more data and more money created in the first place.

Dr. Ruhil believes the future of analytics lies in the hands of the public and grabbing on to hope for much needed social changes. One such innovation is Kaggle. Founded in April 2010, Kaggle is “a platform for data prediction competitions. Companies, organizations and researchers post their large files of raw data only to have it sifted and molded into the world’s best data-mined models.” Because the big data players will ignore rural governments and their communities, “there is an opportunity to make a change for the better by putting your brains to work,” Ruhil said.

Although these ethical questions need more time, public debate, and consideration, we can always find hope in further data innovation despite the dual pulls of fear and opportunity.

Data innovation is especially exciting for students across the globe. Born into the world of computers, the next generation of learners will face the same ethical and logistical questions that we see today. Are you up for the challenge?

 

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Being ‘Liked’ & Building Your Facebook Brand

Recently, I had a conversation with a friend about social media. “I don’t do all that stuff” he said, “I just have a Facebook and that is almost too much for me.” Though my friend was accepting of this venue of communication, he seemed to be unaware of the advantage of developing a virtual identity or personal brand. Therefore, I have decided to explain the importance of social media and demonstrate how Facebook can enhance your employability.  For frequent readers of the Voinovich School blog, this it part three of our social media series. To view the previous entries, see the respective pages of Annie White and Amanda Janice.

Though many do not want to believe it, social media is here to stay. With over 800 million active users, Facebook has grown to become more than just a simple meeting place for college students and twenty somethings. Instead, Facebook has become a marketplace of information and ideas. Here, friends can share content, communicate, and explore developing trends. Though Facebook was launched in 2004, it has quickly become the gold standard in web-based communication. This is an impressive feat considering the site was developed by a Harvard drop out.

According to digitalbuzzblog.com, the average Facebook user has 130 friends and “likes” 80 pages. Further, each week more than 3.5 million pieces of content are shared. At the onset of Facebook, Mark Zuckerburg (that Harvard drop out) sought to make the world a more connected place. Judging by the rapid expansion of the site, it is clear that his dream is becoming reality.

So, what does this mean for young professionals looking to win their first job out of college? First, social media is unavoidable. As more users log on, more companies will focus their efforts on social media marketing. Therefore, the best place to look for jobs or be noticed is within this virtual realm. Second, social media applications provide a digital storage place for connections and acquaintances. Remember that person you met at the conference in Phoenix? Well, they just announced a job opening on their status. Third, social media is the only way to build a personal brand.

As a young professional seeking future employment, I have developed some tips and recommendations for building a personal brand through Facebook. Though this list is not exhaustive, I believe each point will offer some guidance and clarity for new user and existing Facebook users.

  1. Know Your Audience: This is an important consideration for any social media application. Closely monitor the content you are sending to the masses and ask yourself if potential employers would want to read or see what you have released. Keep in mind, the timeline feature of Facebook is able to track everything you “like” or comment on.
  1. Update Your Status: Once you have determined your audience, begin updating your status on a regular basis. This will push your content into the news feeds of others and will allow you to express your virtual identity though conversation. Though Annie White discourages connecting a Twitter account to Facebook, I encourage this. The more you post on Twitter, the more it will appear on Facebook, thus pushing your identity across the internet over two different applications.  To become fully connected, link your twitter account to LinkedIn. Constantly updating your accounts with relevant content and status updates will keep connections aware of your presence within the digital realm.
  1. Build a Complete Profile: This means updating your degrees, work experience, and other basic information. Your Facebook profile should be a reflection of your professional self and therefore information on your resume should be consistent with information on your account. You should also link to other social media applications in your “about me” section to encourage connections too follow you on Twitter and LinkedIn. The goal: Build your Internet presence.
  1. Join Professional Groups: By joining professional associations, you will have access to the latest news and information. This can be a great way to connect with other professionals and gain recognition within your intended career field. Consider linking notes and status updates with your groups, as this will increase traffic to your profile.
  1. Be Uniform: The world is becoming a more connected place. Therefore, it makes no sense to keep your LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook pages separate. Information should be the same on each site including your profile picture. Building a personal brand is hard, but if you can present consistent information across the social media spectrum, you will be able to monitor your sites more easily.
  1. Create a Domain Name: Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn allow you to tack a personal name at the end of your url. This name should be the cornerstone of your virtual identity. Typically, your full name works the best, but if that is unavailable try to choose something representative of your career and personality. If an interviewer Googles your name, this can help narrow down the search results.

As we continually push the boundaries of virtual interaction, the best place to be is at the front of this race. By investing time now to start accounts and learn the lingo, you will be better prepared for future advancements in social media. Though my friend may never fully embrace this emerging venue of communication, I am confidant that he will understand the value of creating a personal brand. If you are still having doubts, think about this question: If an interviewer searches your name in Google, what will they see?

Andrew Miller

Has Technology made Communication Better?

I’ve been thinking about communication a lot lately, particularly how we communicate with one another in today’s technologically advanced society. So it struck a chord today in Dr. Raffle’s Qualitative Research Methods when communication was brought up in class discussion. While talking about a supplemental book we are reading for class and how dating has changed across generations, how we communicate was brought up as part of this discussion.

Our generation often lacks face-to-face communication. Even I’ve been guilty of emailing my supervisor from down the hall when I’m at work. What happened to making a phone call instead of sending an email? Or meeting someone for coffee to go over work instead of Skype or video conferencing? When you are able to meet with someone, it’s much easier to build relationships and establish a report.

For those of us looking for jobs or internships, or just looking to network with industry professionals, it pays to meet in person. After an interview, networking event or anything you would send a follow-up thanks, send a hand written thank-you note. It may sound monotonous but trust me the extra time goes a long way and gets noticed.

Another opportunity for more personal communication that often gets swept under the rug is the phone call. How many times have you text messaged, Tweeted or written on a good friend or family member’s Facebook wall for their birthday instead of picking up the phone and calling? Trust me when I tell you that a phone call goes a long way and means a lot.

My last piece of advice goes out to social networking. Stop having conversations via your social networks that should really be done via personal communication like text messaging or a phone call. This is not only annoying to those who follow you, but it also shows employers that you don’t know how to manage social media sites.

I challenge you this week to assess how you communicate with those close to you and your professional networks, and to improve how you communicate!