Where Is the Humanness In Data?

October 9, 2014 Book Review, Book Talk 2

Where Is the Humanness In Data?Dataclysm Who We Are When We Think No One's Looking by Christian Rudder
Published by Crown Publishing Group on September 9th, 2014
Genres: Non-Fiction
Pages: 304
Source: complimentary review copy
Amazon
Goodreads

 

This post was inspired by Dataclysm: Who We Are (When We Think No One’s Looking) by OKCupid co-founder Christian Rudder, where he analyzes online data to find out that people who prefer beer are more likely to have sex on a first date. Join From Left to Write on October 9th as we discuss Dataclysm. As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.

Algorithms. . .Data. . .graphs. . .charts. . .numbers, likes, yes, no ~ we’ve been whittled down to a number on a graph in almost every aspect of our lives.  It’s ironic that the hospital I go to for multiple sclerosis treatment just this week changed the computer system to, you guessed it, easily track and number the patients.  Some of the questions asked now require answers that fit into the system’s predetermined sets.  Well, I’m human.  Some of my answers don’t necessarily fit in a box.  So what happens?  “just choose the symptom closest to what you’ve been experiencing”

And that’s where my concern is for all of the data that is being collected, formulated and used in turn to create opinions and absolutes.  We are not absolutes.

I have a conflicted relationship with data.  On the one hand it is incredibly useful and fascinating.  I look at my Google Analytics for the blog and see who/what/where my readers are from and can better tailor my posts for my readers’ benefit.  And I appreciate the data even when oftentimes I’m not even sure how to read it ~ any other bloggers see their Google Analytics and wonder what the heck to DO with that information?!?

My issue with data is when it comes to taking the person out of the equation I get a bit testy.  Dataclysm is all about data, collected from years of individuals answering questions and choosing boxes on the OKCupid site.  The book reminded me of a much snarkier version of Freakonmics.

I’d love to open up a discussion about data ~ answer me this Lovely Reader:

 What is your relationship with the four-letter word “data?”

2 Responses to “Where Is the Humanness In Data?”

  1. Jane T.

    I am always torn as well – I mean, I’m a psychologist and I was trained as a researcher, where data is essentially all-powerful! But I also know how easy it is to manipulate data, how it’s reported, etc. to make judgements that just aren’t real. We are humans – we’re messy, we don’t fit into boxes.
    Jane T. recently posted…Dataclysm: Should You Trust Statistics?My Profile

Leave a Reply

CommentLuv badge