Data visualization, trivia and creativity

I’m in London this week for, among other things, a course by David McCandless, author of Information is Beautiful and Knowledge is Beautiful, and pioneer of original data visualizations. It is an excellent workshop, which stimulates parts of the brain you don’t normally get to use (whatever your profession), and helps you to see concepts and information more clearly. What I most got out of it was the ability to ask better questions. Instead of “how have print book sales correlated with e-book sales?”, which is slightly ordinary and generic, how about “which category of book sales has been most impacted by e-books, and how has that progressed over time?”. Instead of “how is climate change affecting temperatures?”, how about “how has the temperature range varied by country over the past 20 years?”. Instead of “which bus lines have the worst delays?”, how about “what are the bus delays caused by, what time of day do they happen, how many people use the bus at those times, and how does all this vary over the course of a day/week/month?”. You can find out more of David’s work at Information is Beautiful, and I thoroughly recommend his TED talk.

The concept is so simple in retrospect. We are biologically predisposed to favour images over text. We survived by being able to detect changes in patterns, movement amongst the reeds, berry-coloured spots in the bush. The language of image is much more universal than any other, and a visualization can transmit so much more in a short period of time than can densely packed numbers or verbose text. So why has it taken us so long to realize that we can do so much more than pie charts and bar graphs?

In part, because of technology. Data as a snapshot in time is interesting, but if it can be easily updated it becomes so much more useful. Good old Excel charts did the trick quite efficiently, but were not exactly grabbing. Adding colour and nifty labels helped. But it was all still rather flat. Faster chips and more efficient programming gave us more powerful processing and more flexibility in presentation. And the trend of interdisciplinary studies and collaborations added a layer of relevance to a broader audience. Mix in some individual creativity and personal style, add the increasingly rapid spread of ideas via the Internet, and you get a data visualization revolution.

from Information is Beautiful - by David McCandless

from Information is Beautiful – by David McCandless

As a total numbers geek (Applied Maths major, and a CFA), this stuff is thrilling. But it’s also exciting and relevant for anyone interested in arcane trivia (who gets more press attention, Han Solo or Luke Skywalker?), culture (the relative success of every major film of the past 7 years), politics (imagine being able to display the differences between the parties in an easy to understand visual… oh, wait, David’s done that), economics (thought you knew what a billion dollars looked like? think again), dogs (what do you mean, the English Spaniel isn’t bright?), social media (there’s a fascinating breakdown of sites by user gender balance)… the list could go on. Check out his website for some fun graphs, charts and whatever-you-call-thems.

from Information is Beautiful - by David McCandless

from Information is Beautiful – by David McCandless

McCandless isn’t the only one doing stunning things with data. Polygraph has some amazing interactive graphics about culture-related themes (“What is the definition of punk?”, “How popular is older music?”, “Which rappers have the broadest vocabulary?”). The New York Times and the Washington Post are producing some slick interactive graphics. FiveThirtyEight, a blog/online magazine born for data journalism, is producing some cool stuff. Andy Kirk runs an impressive blog and website about data visualization. There’s some incredible creativity going on in the field.

from The New York Times

from The New York Times

But McCandless seems well on his way to becoming the “rock star” of the discipline. His visual style and his sense of humour make his talks and workshops anything but dry. His belief that we can all be better data journalists is contagious. And his approachability and “professorial” air left us all encouraged and inspired to get out there and create. I walked away with pages of scribbled ideas for information that I didn’t even know that I wanted to know.

Did you know that lipstick sales go up in a recession? That toast is much more popular worldwide than cereal as a breakfast tool? That Easter and just before summer see the highest concentration of Facebook status updates from “in a relationship” to “single”? That very little of the story told in “The Imitation Game” really happened? That “awesome” is a more popular word than “badass”? These are just some of the tidbits we gleaned from the stream of graphs he showed us as examples. Data really is very, very interesting. Especially if you can express it well.

Sunday Seven: data, surveillance and compulsion

As of next week, I’m going to go back to publishing the round-up on Friday, with a digital art piece on Sunday. Why? Because I miss it. And I think a shorter round up (Friday Five instead of Sunday Seven) will be easier to digest. It will be harder to choose only five items to share, but you’ve probably noticed that I’ve never been a stickler for keeping to the numbers anyway, so… you know, who’s counting?

Anyway, here you have some of the most interesting articles found this week:

If you are reading this, we might be in the same news bubble – by CJ Adams and Izzie Zahorian of Jigsaw, via Medium

unfiltered

And now for a totally amazing twist on the power that algorithms and filters, even the self-imposed ones, have on the information and ideas that we see.

“Search engines, social media and news aggregators are great at surfacing information close to our interests, but they are limited by the set of topics and people we choose to follow. Even if we read multiple news sources every day, what we discover is defined by the languages we are able to read, and the topics that our sources decide to cover. Ultimately, these limitations create a “news bubble” that shapes our perspective and awareness of the world. We often miss out on the chance to connect and empathize with ideas beyond these boundaries.” “It’s a common lament: Though the Internet provides us access to a nearly unlimited number of sources for news, most of us rarely venture beyond the same few sources or topics. And as news consumption shifts to our phones, people are using even fewer sources”

Launched by Jigsaw, the tech incubator formerly known as Google Ideas, Unfiltered shows what topics are popular in certain regions of the world, and which ones are being under-reported. A very cool bubble interactive graphic (visual pun noted) shows what is being covered in different parts of the world, and what is being covered elsewhere but not in your region. Furthermore, you can click on any subject displayed to find out more about the type of coverage that it is receiving. You can also see how coverage of a topic has changed over time.

“Even with the power of the internet, it can be surprisingly difficult to explore the diversity of global perspectives. Technology has made it easier for everyone share information, but it hasn’t made us better at finding viewpoints that are distant from our own.”

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The Secrets of Surveillance Capitalism – by Shoshanna Zuboff, for Frankfurter Allgemeine

This isn’t from the past week, but I’m breaking the rules here because 1) I only came across it last week, and 2) it’s such a gob-smacker of an article that it deserves to be shared, whenever. Shoshanna Zuboff of Harvard Business School writes in Frankfurter Allgemeine about the new type of capitalism brought on by our active online lives. We’ve heard the term “info-capitalism” before, but she calls it “surveillance capitalism”, a much more unsettling name. The effect is no doubt intentional.

“Some attribute the assault to an inevitable “age of big data,” as if it were possible to conceive of data born pure and blameless, data suspended in some celestial place where facts sublimate into truth… I’ve come to a different conclusion:  The assault we face is driven in large measure by the exceptional appetites of a wholly new genus of capitalism, a systemic coherent new logic of accumulation that I call surveillance capitalism.”

Our activity online creates data. Even Google, back in the early days, discarded this data, not realising that it would become the backbone of its lucrative business. The generated information, or “behavioural surplus”, is the basis of surveillance capitalism, and raises all sorts of thorny issues such as privacy, independence and free will.

“We’ve entered virgin territory here. The assault on behavioral data is so sweeping that it can no longer be circumscribed by the concept of privacy and its contests.  This is a different kind of challenge now, one that threatens the existential and political canon of the modern liberal order defined by principles of self-determination that have been centuries, even millennia, in the making.”

The “efficiencies” of online business create new mechanisms of distribution and profit generation which, data protection laws aside, are largely unregulated. And why regulate something that people in general aren’t even aware is happening? Without regulation, it will be difficult to develop an antidote, or to at least channel them towards humanity-enhancing freedoms.

“Mass production was interdependent with its populations who were its consumers and employees. In contrast, surveillance capitalism preys on dependent populations who are neither its consumers nor its employees and are largely ignorant of its procedures.”

Ms. Zuboff likens surveillance capitalism to a coup, “an overthrow of people’s sovereignty”, which challenges our principle of self-determination. And it’s happening without our realising. We don’t realise what we are consenting to.

“It’s happened quickly and without our understanding or agreement. This is because the regime’s most poignant harms, now and later, have been difficult to grasp or theorize, blurred by extreme velocity and camouflaged by expensive and illegible machine operations, secretive corporate practices, masterful rhetorical misdirection, and purposeful cultural misappropriation.”

The conclusion is powerful, eye-opening and beautifully put. The emphasis is mine, and calls into question what exactly is this utopia we are striving to achieve?

“The bare facts of surveillance capitalism necessarily arouse my indignation because they demean human dignity. The future of this narrative will depend upon the indignant scholars and journalists drawn to this frontier project, indignant elected officials and policy makers who understand that their authority originates in the foundational values of democratic communities, and indignant citizens who act in the knowledge that effectiveness without autonomy is not effective, dependency-induced compliance is no social contract, and freedom from uncertainty is no freedom.”

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Your Data Footprint Is Affecting Your Life In Ways You Can’t Even Imagine – by Jessica Leber, for FastCoExist

Not quite as gut-punching as the previous article, this one continues on the riff of the burning question: how much control over our lives have we given up, without even realising?

“Predictions about you (and millions of other strangers) are starting to deeply shape your life. Your career, your love life, major decisions about your health and well-being, and even if you end up in jail, are now being governed in no small part by the digital bread crumbs you’ve left behind—many of which you don’t even know you’ve dropped in the first place.”

Behind-the-scenes algorithms of dating sites, commerce, civic interaction and crime prevention are ostensibly there to help us, to improve our quality of life, to prevent bad things from happening. But how much is cause, and how much is effect? To what extent are the predictions self-fulfilling, further entrenching future assumptions?

“When you rely too much on data—if the data is flawed or incomplete, as could be the case in predictive policing—you risk further validating bad decisions or existing biases.”

Are prediction algorithms enablers, freeing up valuable time and producing end results that we’re happy with? Or are they taking our way our agency and our free will? Would you have bought that vase if your feed hadn’t shown it to you? Would you have gone on a date with that person if an algorithm hadn’t decided for you that he or she was a good fit?

“Even major life decisions like college admissions and hiring are being affected. You might think that a college is considering you on your merits, and while that’s mostly true, it’s not entirely. Pressured to improve their rankings, colleges are very interested in increasing their graduation rates and the percentage of admitted students who enroll. They have now have developed statistical programs to pick students who will do well on these measures.”

Personal finance, college admissions, hiring decisions are all becoming increasingly based on predictive assumptions, tweaked to emphasize factors that optimize outcomes. This sounds efficient. But is it fair?

“What happens when a computer says you’re likely to commit a crime before you do it, and, worse, what if the data underlying that prediction is wrong and you can’t do anything about it? What happens when a dating program is slowly pushing us to a more segregated society because it shows us the people it thinks we want to see? Or when personalized medicine can save lives, but because it is based mainly around genomes sequenced from white people of European descent, it’s only saving some lives?”

And yet, the possibilities are huge, and important. Information leads to insight which leads to fixing problems or improving outcomes.

“On the other hand, big data does have the potential to vastly expand our understanding of who we are and why we do what we do. A decade ago, serious scientists would have laughed someone out of the room who proposed a study of “the human condition.” It is a topic so broad and lacking in measurability. But perhaps the most important manifestation of big data in people’s lives could come from the ability for scientists to study huge, unwieldy questions they couldn’t before.”

So the issue revolves around the quality of the data, and its end use. Life has always been based on assumptions, so we can´t ban those. Predicting is a human trait that goes back to pre-history. And the collection of data isn’t going anywhere, it is becoming an increasingly significant factor in daily interactions and that trend will be very difficult to stop. But, we can at least start to ask the questions about the potential negative outcomes, rather than gleefully rush into the imagined utopias of all-seeing, all-knowing code that makes our lives more pleasant, but at the same time, less free and less human.

“And while it’s true that analytics can already make smarter guesses than humans in many situations, people are more than their data. A world where people struggle to rise above what is expected of them—say a college won’t admit them because they don’t seem like someone with a good chance of graduating—is a sad world. “There’s this danger we lose our identity as people and we become categories,” says Dhar.”

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The Value of Using Podcasts in Class – by Michael Godsey, for The Atlantic

I don’t want to become known as “The Podcast Girl” (although I can think of worse titles), but I do find them fascinating as a medium and as a content generator. They “reach the parts that other media don’t reach”, to paraphrase an iconic Carlsberg ad. But I confess that I haven’t yet given much thought to their usefulness in the classroom. I had thought that podcasts were for personal time, and classroom interaction was teacher-student.

But, why not? Group listening brings out the social aspect of podcasts, making them the most communal of media. I would argue that they are even more “social” than video, since with visual you are both listening and watching. With audio you’re just listening, and can interact with your fellow listeners with your eyes and your voice.

“Earlier this week, I asked each of my own students to write down what they’d honestly like to do for the rest of the semester: read a good book together, listen to another podcast, or listen to a podcast with the words on the screen. Sixty-two voted for the latter, while just two voted for podcasts alone, and one for reading alone.”

I did think it strange that reading books is being pushed aside in favour of reading transcripts. And this would definitely validate Nicholas Carr’s theory that the internet makes us “dumber” by eroding our ability to deep read. But, as the author points out, some reading is better than no reading. And the juxtaposition of transcripts and podcasts, of audio and text, is going to create new synapses, new learning experiences and perhaps even new media. It would be premature to dismiss it as less “meaningful”, until we try it out, and see what effect this combination has on learning.

“The reasons were as varied as they were compelling. Many of them said that reading along with the audio helped with their focus and kept them from “spacing out” while listening. Others, paradoxically, wrote that they were able to multi-task—they could take notes or write on their worksheets and could keep up with the story even with their eyes off the screen. Some explicitly recognized that they could look back and re-read something they didn’t understand when they first heard it; others said they read slightly ahead and then could write down a quote while they listened to it. A student with eyesight problems said he appreciates the ability to take reading breaks without stopping his enjoyment of the story. A few students learning English as a second language wrote that they like how they can read the words and—as one student put it—promptly “hear how they’re supposed to sound.””

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Things Organized Neatly: A New Book of Compulsively Organized Things by Austin Radcliffe – via Colossal

image via Colossal

image via Colossal

I’m a bit concerned about how much I love this: OCD turned into art. Does that mean I might have compulsive tendencies? No, you should see my office. But the photo of the cars and containers stacked up? That was my recurring nightmare when I was a little girl – I couldn’t get my toy cars to stack up. So, maybe… Whatever, these photos are amazing.

image via Colossal

image via Colossal

image via Colossal

image via Colossal

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What Happens When We Become A Cashless Society? – by Charlie Sorrell, for FastCoExist

Is cash becoming obsolete? This article cites the growing encroachment of electronic commerce on our daily lives to argue that yes, we don’t need it any more.

“The promise is that banning cash would end black markets, but for honest citizens, the end of paper cash brings many unsettling downsides. Credit card transactions are already trackable, and electronic cash could bring that lack of anonymity to every single transaction you make.”

As a society, are we comfortable with that level of scrutiny? Governments around the world are trying to curtail the use of cash, to reduce fraud, money laundering and to lower the costs of producing and handling the stuff. Could part of their motivation be to reduce the anonymity that cash gives us?

“While anonymous digital cash is technically possible, governments are unlikely to pass up the chance to have all currencies tracked as they move through the system (like with credit card transactions), or with new digital currency that carries a record of its own history along with it. Once this information exists, it will become a target of government agencies such as the police and intelligence services and trafficked to insurance companies, tax collectors, fraud squads, and even marketers.”

And if you look around, you can see that it’s already happening.

“The end of cash may seem like fancy thinking, but look at how money has changed since credit and debit cards started to usurp cash. We already route money around with bank transfers enacted from our tablets, we pay for Uber cars with the convenience of a phone app, and we travel abroad without even thinking about buying foreign currency before we go. And PayPal, the original cashless payment system, turned 18 years old this year. Cash is already on its way out.”

Technologically, it’s both disconcerting and very interesting. Would better data give governments stronger control over the economy? Could money be programmed to only be spent in certain sectors? And with more payment-like data flying around the ether, security will become even more of an issue than it already is. While cash is not exactly secure, at least we know when we have it.

— x —

Things I enjoyed this week:

· You’ve Got Mail: Just the sweetest film, with an excellent, retro soundtrack, and nostalgic dial-up interfaces.

youve-got-mail-movie-poster

· A new MOOC on cryptography by Stanford University. Dense, and hard work, but exciting.

coursera cryptography

Now, look here: the implications of eye-tracking

The thrills and the dangers of eye-tracking technology.

Look here. Now look there. Registered.

If you haven’t experienced eye-tracking software yet, you’re in for an eye-opener (sorry). The startup scene has many companies working on the technology, which is getting more sophisticated and cheaper by the day. And the implications are huge.

Your smartphone probably already has eye-tracking capability. Israeli startup uMoove has developed a software-based eye tracker that follows your gaze with your phone camera. I downloaded their concentration-training app uHealth (iOS) which asks you to “aim” your gaze at yellow and blue birds. Ok, I couldn’t get it to work (it wanted me to respond to voice cues I couldn’t hear), but the concept is amazing. They have demoed a game in which you direct your avatar with your eyes. Very cool. I don’t know how reliable it will turn out to be, or whether wearing glasses will affect the outcome, but it is very cool.

uhealth

from the uHealth app

Technology company Tobii is also exploring eye control in gaming, but with an external tracking device. This promo video gives you an idea of some of the possibilities:

This video from Tobii gives a deeper idea as to the potential for really innovative game development:

The new Assassin’s Creed for PC due out in March (“Rogue”) will incorporate eye-tracking controls via an external tracker. Understandably, the gaming sector is pretty excited. The scene changes according to what you’re looking at. Move your eyes left, and the field of vision on the screen moves left. Look away, and the game pauses.

screenshot from Assassin's Creed: Rogue

screenshot from Assassin’s Creed: Rogue

It sounds exciting. But is that much “reality” in a game a good thing? Might the boundaries between our real world reactions and motor skills start to blend with our reactions and motor skills in front of a screen? Might we not start to “see” our eyes as just another tool, necessary for manipulating our environment? In an interview, the producer declared “It gives you such a good control over the game, and you’ll feel so inside the game, that you’ll never want to use something [sic] else.” And that is a good thing, how? Substitute the word “game” for “experience”, and you’ll see where this is heading.

Tobii has also developed eyeglasses that track the movements of your pupils. This is a marketer’s dream, to know how the viewer’s eyes move over the screen and where they linger, to quantify which positions are optimal for ads. Offline, as well. The glasses record the movement of your eyes over the merchandising, which could take the design of physical stores to a new level of efficiency. Usability testing for webs or physical machines could become more detailed and powerful than ever. Just think how this technology could improve the setting up of IKEA furniture…

… or learning how to cook. Combine the eye tracking glasses with dedicated cooking apps that read you the instructions and measurements as you move around the kitchen, and following recipes becomes, cough, a piece of cake. The same concept could make setting up the DVD or the wireless stereo so much easier.

I imagine that it’s a question of time before eye-tracking software gets incorporated into car windshields. The car you’re driving slows to a crawl if you’re not looking at the road, and gently pulls over if your eyes close for more than a second.

Just think of the effect it could have on how we read: no more pressing of a button or swiping to move on to the next page. Would that affect our concentration? Our understanding? Flipping pages has long been the percussion in our reading. It marks the pace, it signals a new beginning, it sounds like advancement. Take away that percussion, and reading becomes a continuous flow of words. Obviously there’s nothing wrong with that, but it will change the reading experience, which could end up having an impact on how we learn and think.

In education, the teacher can more closely follow student’s comprehension of a subject by seeing where their eyes linger, and where their eyes completely skip over an object on the page. The teacher can also more accurately tell if the student is paying attention. Or, more importantly, the teacher can tell what does attract the student’s attention. Learning materials can be re-designed with that information in mind.

As far as we know, the uses that are being investigated have convenience and efficiency as the main goal. It’s possible that reading will be a more enjoyable experience if we don’t have to put down our cocktail to turn the page. And more efficient marketing will lead to more efficient use of media and space, a benefit which could end up offsetting the increased possibility that we end up buying something or subscribing to a service that we didn’t absolutely need. As far as we know, the end uses are relatively benign.

screenshot from uMoove

screenshot from uMoove

For now. But in the rush to accumulate data on everything that we do, isn’t following our eye movements moving dangerously near the territory of tracking what we think? UMoove practically says so on its website: “Eyes are the window to the brain… Track the eye, track the brain.” Do we want that much data about our thoughts and instincts to be tracked and recorded? Controlling our eye movements is extremely difficult, and they often wander to the rhythm of our subconscious. Just as gazing into someone’s eyes is the height of intimacy, the idea that third-party trackers know where our eyes go makes me a bit uncomfortable. It’s too personal.

However, it obviously is a technology that needs further development. For a person who cannot move his or her arms or legs, being able to turn a page with your eyes would fill an unfairly limited existence with intellectual promise and potential. And giving us an extra “limb” with which to activate certain actions would make high-stress, precision tasks such as surgery, engineering or even combat less restricted by our physical limitations.

Eye-tracking is yet another example of the double-edged sword of technological advancement. Huge leaps forward in productivity and experience, with new doors opening to control and manipulation. Where is the line that separates the useful from the dangerous? And even if it were possible to know that, who would be in charge of deciding where it was? Personally, I’m very excited about where we’re heading. The knowledge, the efficiencies, the solutions… And yet, too much tracking, too much information about our activities, habits, even thoughts, makes us vulnerable. No one knows where the tipping point is going to be. And will we even notice once we have passed it?

How good intentions can be misinterpreted – a Big Data flameout

In this case, the good intentions have to do with improving school efficiencies, making teachers’ jobs easier, giving students more flexibility and facilitating parents’ choices. I’m talking about Inbloom, the software platform that was to revolutionise the way schools manage their data. The idea was that students’ data would be standardised and aggregated, so that teaching could be more tailored to the student’s abilities, trends and problems could be spotted sooner, and transferring schools would no longer be a big hassle.

Inbloom educational software

Sounds good, right? Inbloom would give the schools significant cost savings, free up management resources, and make it easier to spot trends and identify problems… Several states adopted Inbloom as the educational standard, and The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Carnegie Corporation of New York contributed significant funding. Things were going well, schools were signing up, and the administrators and officials were getting excited about the digitalised future of education. But at the end of last month Inbloom announced that it was closing its virtual doors. What happened?

There is so much to talk about here (the role of Big Data in education, the value of standardised curriculums, the security of cloud storage…) that I will leave for future posts. But it is worth looking at what Inbloom wanted to do, why it is a very good idea, the mistakes that they made, and what we can learn from all this.

Inbloom wanted to standardise school data, and to make it easy for schools to input, analyse and share this information. Traditionally US schools have spent untold resources on data input in different, often incompatible platforms. If a student changed schools, transferring his or her data from one school to another could take up to several weeks, which didn’t exactly facilitate integration. And with data spread out so thinly, it was impossible to analyse, so teachers were often working with sparse information and applying general assumptions to disperse groups. Patterns were almost impossible to see, schools could not tell which subjects were working or not, and teachers did not in general have the necessary data to be able to effectively personalize the classes.

Having all the data in one place makes it easier for teachers and school administrators to analyse teaching methods, track student performance, identify outliers… And the data is more easily transferrable if students change schools. Up until now the data has been in different databases, with different formats, and was not easily transferrable, which made following a child’s progress as he or she passed through several schools very difficult indeed.

But, Inbloom made several big mistakes. When it comes to their kids’ data, parents are understandably sensitive. Inbloom did not focus on speaking directly to the parents, addressing their concerns and explaining the security controls. It chose to let the schools do that, and even dropped out of its social media channels. But it turned out that the schools and state departments in general were not equipped to talk about Big Data fears, and took the easier route of backing down. The media backlash prompted states to drop out of the programme, and the loss of the New York state schools was the final blow.

Frankly, some of the parents’ fears are quite understandable. For instance, data permanence: for how long is the information stored? Let’s say your son or daughter one day decides to run for President of the United States. Do you really want the number of times that he or she was late to class to be a matter of public record? Even if your child’s ambitions are nowhere near that high, parents do not feel comfortable handing over sensitive data like academic record, health information, family relationships and disciplinary actions to a private company, even a non-profit that cannot in any way sell the data.

And as for public record, who owns the data, the school or the state? The data is put in by the school, but the state is Inbloom’s client. If a school wanted certain data deleted, for example, it would have to get permission from the state. And what if a parent simply doesn’t want the data shared, is there an opt-out option? Do you have to change schools, move states, leave the country?

The thing is, this data is all already in the system anyway. Health information, attendance records, etc., are stored on computers somewhere. What Inbloom wanted to do was to aggregate the data for efficiency and for insight. What was not well handled was the data control issue. It seems that we are more comfortable if our data is fragmented, because is it less likely that a bigger picture about us as individuals can be drawn. We understandably fear the labelling and the misunderstanding.

As the CEO said in a message on Inbloom’s webpage, “this concept is still new, and building public acceptance for the solution will require more time and resources than anyone could have anticipated”. Sensitivity should be added to the list, as well as perseverance. Inbloom or its successors need to work with all of the participants – the states, the schools, the parents and the students – to figure out what everyone wants, to calm fears, to add features and even to help draft a Students’ Privacy Bill of Rights.

We’re not yet comfortable with Big Data, especially when it concerns our kids. But at least we’re having the discussion, we’re starting to get a glimpse of the possibilities, and better information and communication will eventually help us to accept that the efficiencies are worth it. May Inbloom’s demise not be in vain.

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For more on online education, check out my Flipboard “Internet and Education”:

flipboard education