Putting a face on big data


Big data is usually thought of as a humungous set of numbers. But behind (or sometimes in front of) those numbers are faces – people who directly or indirectly use or benefit from crunching the datasets.

Photographer Rick Smolan – creator of the Day in the Life series of books in the 1970s and 1980s – and Jennifer Erwitt, partners of a multimedia publishing firm, have created a book and iPad app called The Human Face of Big Data.

Our colleagues at sister publication ITBusiness.ca have put together a slide show from a dozen of the images that illustrate the theme.
(Web page from the publishers of the book)

Appropriately, one of the images itself is a result of big data – a shot of New York City’s Times Square simultaneously showing it at night and during the day. It’s a compilation of 1,400 images taken over 15 hours that took nearly three months to process.

As expected, there are high tech images, but there’s also an archived 1943 photo of the FBI’s records department, a football-field sized arena filled with rows of cabinets holding paper files – big data in that era.

The slide show doesn’t mention it, but late that year the British created Colossus, the first programmable digital electronic computer, used for breaking German codes. We’ve come a long way since.

To see the slide show click here


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