Scientists May be the Next Storytellers

July 9, 2014

Our former researcher, Tony Mills, has co-written an excellent article in the latest City Journal.

Two of his points stand out: First, Big Data is turning data scientists into storytellers, able to interpret what they’ve analyzed and then pass it along. Second, today’s communication revolution cherishes meta-information, or awareness of the “processes, methods, and procedures by which people and things are informed by data.”

 Here’s more: 

“Data scientists have begun to take their places alongside journalists and other past intermediaries but with a twist: making sense out of big data will require them to think like the storytellers of old. What questions should be asked? What data should be interpreted, where should they be sent, when, and for whom? While a nineteenth-century journalist would recognize these questions, answering them increasingly requires an understanding of human behavior and desires. Tomorrow’s intermediaries will need to be adroit not just in computer science and information gathering but also in psychology, sociology and social dynamics, visual and auditory perception, cognitive acceptance, and philosophy—and old-fashioned common sense.”

“Thanks to the capabilities of analytic tools—of which we have only scratched the surface—we will soon be able to plumb our new virtual memory to gain knowledge rooted in collective experience. With the help of storytellers, this can be passed along seamlessly in the form of practical wisdom.”

Tony’s analysis here hints at what the future will demand of our educators and the educated. The smart and digitally aware communicators will be many steps ahead of their peers, if current computing trends continue. More significantly, they will begin to think and look at the world around them in ways that we never thought possible before. As individuals and even in the aggregate as countries, such awareness may prove a large competitive advantage in the years to come.

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