The world is awash with data. Information. Some would say there is more than enough opinion around, too.
However, data by itself is of little use in understanding our world, it’s interpretation (ie opinion) that makes it twirl.
This idea established mainly by Claude Shannon (1916-2001) is recognised as a branch of applied maths, electrical engineering and computer science involving the ‘quantification of information’. It also includes compressing data, storing and transmitting information, quantum computing, plagiarism detection – and in fact, any sort of data analysis.
All this is very relevant in entropy, the average number of bits needed to store/communicate one symbol in any message. Applications include ZIP files (lossless data compression), MP3s and JPGs (lossy data compression) and DSL (digital subscriber line, channel coding).
All very technical and very now. This field is the cutting edge of the development of the internet, deep space travel, black holes and stellar exploration, linguistics and human perception and algorithmic treatment of data.
In other words, we can no longer live without all this stuff, whether we understand it or not. It now enables, drives, packages/presents and formulates our world with our seemingly unsatisfiable hunger for data and information.
The transition from old, tired, drought-wet 2012 into shiny new and optimistic 2013 saw the annual parade of statistics that sum up how we live now. In 2008 there were just over 500 reports of crimes involving social media sites. Last year crimes involving the likes of Facebook and Twitter rose by a jaw-dropping 780%.
An annual list of businesses with ‘the biggest buzz’ carried out by YouGov was created by asking 2000 different people every day were asked whether they’d heard or seen anything good or bad about brands by any means.
Amazon slipped from top to third, while Google departed the top 10 completely. Both these brands, along with Starbucks, Facebook and Apple, suffered the ‘tax avoidance’ factor, where they had been revealed to be paying strictly legal but high immoral small amounts of British corporation tax.
Top of the brand good guys were BBCiPlayer, John Lewis, Amazon (despite also being light tax payers), MoneySavingExpert, Marks & Spencer, Apple iPad, Sainsbury’s, bbc.co.uk (despite an awful year of its journalistic credibility reduced to laughable levels), Samsung and Cathedral City (cheese).
Interpretation Is the Key
All these brands make a comment about our social mores at this period. The bald figures tell a certain story which we filter through our experiences, perceptions and memories to make sense from.
The internet and contemporary technology feature highly, yet so does a traditional hard cheese product. Bad publicity such as deservedly experienced by the BBC and Amazon apparently have not dented popularity.
Author of A Dictionary of Idiocy, Stephen Bayley told the Daily Telegraph on 28 December, that he revelled in being called an ‘idiot’ who expressed his opinions forcefully. ‘Opinions start conversations. To have opinions, an active imagination is required’.
He said that ‘opinion is knowledge sent on interesting vectors’, citing those who claim that there is nothing ‘so dismal as fact’. Facts are merely crude data. It’s the human angles on those facts that make them fascinating and since our economy depends on creativity, opinions should be treasured.
He argued that real opinions are rare, since to generate them you need ‘unusual qualities such as speculative intelligence and a taste for dissent’.
Opinion is But a Catchphrase in the Digital Age
Dissent is not cherished any more. The eccentric is not always lauded. Inclusion and diversity are watchwords of this time, but people really do not subscribe to them. We let supposed immutable facts get in the way of opinion, and dismiss people who give opinions as. ‘that’s just your opinion’ as if one person’s view is worth nothing.
That’s all very strange, since so much of the web, including social media and shopping, rely heavily on apparent opinions. Star ratings for shopping experiences, customer reviews (both real and fabricated), the wiki approach to knowledge and the instant sharing of news, views, photos, videos and facts all add up to the oil that drive us.
It’s a strange dichotomy.
Want to join in with a view or two about how we square these circles of life today?
Essential, background and related blogs:
MBF New Service in the ‘Data is King’ Brave New Digital World, 12 December 2012
Zeitgeist: The Flavour of the (Google) Times, 1 January 2012
When Christmas Ads Become More Important Than TV Programmes, 24 December 2012
Amazon Delivers Jobs, New Technology and Efficiency Besides Parcels, 11 December 2012
The Benefits of Seeing Transparency Clearly in the Digital Age, 6 November 2012,
The Internet Has Created a New Frontier in Lite-Tax Paying, 29 October 2012
The World’s Love-Hate Relationship with Google, 23 July 2012
Who Actually Owns Your Social Media? 19 June 2012
‘Intelligence’ Demands Intelligent Handling, 1 May 2012
Wikis Help Keep the Net Open, 17 January 2012