big data | September 23, 2013

Make Big Data Use More Transparent: Speaker Jer Thorp

Have you ever wanted to explore the Okavango Delta, one of the Seven Natural Wonders of Africa? Big data speaker Jer Thorp is working on a new project so you can do just that—without leaving the comfort of your own home. Thorp, a newly chosen Emerging Explorer, will be charting the Percy FitzPatrick Institute’s research team's experience as they navigate an untraveled route through the grueling, yet beautiful, terrain. "Soon you will be able to see what we are seeing, hear what we are hearing, track our heartbeats...Be part our live experience!" the National Geographic's Steve Boyes (a partner in the project) explains.

Every evening, the team uploads all their plant and wildlife sightings, sounds they've heard, their heartbeats, and comments on the experience via satellite. A GPS locator also tracks their location throughout the journey. Thorp, drawing from his extensive research as a data artist, plots the data in a meaningful and visually appealing way. As Boyes says, "No one before has been able to get into these areas to census birdlife." And, thanks to Thorp's work, the groundbreaking journey will be available for the world to see.

This project is but one example of the benefits of visualizing big data. In fact, many investors and businesses are likening big data to big oil thanks to its potential value. But, as the keynote speaker of CLSA’s annual investor conference in Hong Kong, Thorp warned that this valuable resource could be extremely promising or potentially dangerous if it's not used properly. “The challenge is how to share public data with all stakeholders,” he said. If big data is to be the next big oil, then we must approach it with a less cavalier attitude, he explains. “Companies that become data-ethical may gain a competitive advantage as consumers become more aware of what’s being done with their data,” he said in his talk. That means ensuring your consumers have a clear understanding of how their data is being used, and, ensuring they consent to it. Big data does have big potential, but, Thorp stresses, only if we use it responsibly.

In his talks, Jer Thorp shows us how his beautiful and moving data visualization projects are humanizing the influx of information surrounding us. Thorp teaches audiences how adding meaning and narrative to huge amounts of data can help people take control of the information that surrounds them, and revolutionize the way we use data. His talks can both apply to the consumer wishing to better understand the data they are producing, and, companies who wish to better use this practice. To book Jer Thorp as a speaker for your next event, contact The Lavin Agency.