Monday, January 12, 2015

Book: Christian Rudder's "Dataclysm"


The second book of the year was Christian Rudder's "Dataclysm: Who We Are (When We Think No One's Looking)".  This book looks at what we can find out about society and ourselves from the data we share on social media.

The books generally looks at what men and women want from the opposite sex, how we see racism, and how the sexes differ in what is important.  The author is a co-founder of OKCupid, the dating site, which explains, what I saw as, an over emphasis on the Man-Woman dynamic.

The material discussed, and the author's enthusiasm for the potential benefits of studying social media data, is interesting.  I wish the author had broadened the scope, away from the dating-centric examples but, since the data is coming from social media and dating sites, I suppose this was the most common data available for him to collect and interpret.

The book does provide a good idea of what is possible.  Social media data allows social scientists to, for the first time, stop relying on biased questionnaires and polls and actually observe how we interact as a society and as individuals.  As more and more people join social media and as more and more data is collected over time, we will eventually have a much clearer and honest understanding of how we interact and respond to the world around us.

The author does mention the downside of the data being used as marketing tools to get us sheep to buy more useless stuff but, in his enthusiasm to promote the study of the data, he under-emphasizes this dark underbelly of Big Data.

On Goodreads I gave this book four stars though I wish it could have been longer with a broader scope.

A Note On Checking Books Out Of The Library:  I ended up reading this book in three days.  The reason I read it so fast was another book that I had on hold, which I expected to become available in a week or two, became available the day after I started this one.  I had seventy-two hours to check out the other book before I would loose it to the next person in line waiting for it.  I wish you were given an estimate for when it could become available.  Fortunately "Dataclysm" was a relatively short read and I finished it in plenty of time.

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