Know Thy Data

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One of the most fascinating parts of our consumer culture is the stuff that is behind the scenes: the insights about our attitudes, values and lifestyles that companies unearth (part of my “day job”) as well as the data they collect about us to figure out now to get more of our hard-earning spending cash.

For the former, the information that forms the insights comes from work done with cognizant and willing participants (e.g. “would you like to take a survey?”) or by observing public behavior.

The latter, however is a complex algorithm of numbers that are aggregated by our supermarkets, electric companies, cell phone providers and the like that they analyze and sell to other big companies but very rarely, if ever, share with us- even though they are collecting our every move and purchase with us just-barely knowing about it.

There was an interesting article in yesterday’s New York Times business section that talked about this in  detail as well as the trend of some companies (as discussed by my fellow consumer anthropologist Ken Anderson at Intel) towards finding ways to allow consumers to benefit from their own information.  Check out the Technoforia article on our “Open Data Society”  for more.

Would love to know how you would want to use your own data – if you could access it in a way that made sense.

I think I would want to be able to predict my bikini size and workload leading up to my next vacation so I can plan my stress-eating consumption accordingly.  😉

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