Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Data, data, everywhere.

The world around you is made of data.

Not in a science fiction-y “Matrix”-like way in which everyone and everything is in fact a digitized stream of infinite 1’s and 0’s. At least as far as I know, the world we inhabit is not an illusion controlled by so many alien, deceitful machines.

Indeed the world is real yet the data are surely there still, all around us. They are the attitudes, beliefs, and predispositions we hold. They are the actions, habits, and abilities that comprise our behaviors. They are the messages we hear, the interpretations we assemble, the information we broadcast. All these things can be woven into elegant tapestries of words and numbers portraying who we are in the most interesting of ways.

But this is well known. The collection of quantitative and qualitative data as a practice has been successfully rumbling along since the 1970’s. Seriously. You're online now. Google it if you don’t believe me. Without doubt – given the technological advances we have witnessed just in the previous ten years – every marketer has come to realize that nary anything can escape being measured, controlled, tested, and evaluated.

What is less well understood is the opportunity we have to ask questions. Too often the investigation of data is tentative and brief. Enough to uncover cursory facts or illuminate rudimentary insights perhaps, but little more. Where data scarcity may have restrained marketing analysis in past decades, the only reasonable limitation today is the imagination with which the question is asked.

Recently, my team completed a work that begins with an inspired question. Specifically: What effect has the emergent influence of cross-culturalism in the US had on American society? That’s a big question to be sure. But a question we pose confidently, knowing we have at our hands one of the largest, most complete data stores ever compiled in the 2010 American Census.

Over the next few weeks I'll post some of the investigations completed by members of the team. We hope that like us, you will find the answers interesting.