Mining and Meaning

Article from Issue 145/2012

I’m looking at another crop of press releases and marveling at the ever-expanding market for products that fall under the ubiquitous heading of Big Data. Big Data is everywhere. (Or is it Big Data are everywhere – to reprise that classic quandary?) Gigantic file storage appliances from vendors like Oracle and HP and software tools like Apache Hadoop continually add new building blocks to the data infrastructure. And the goal of all this? Apart from more conventional uses for scientific modeling and analysis, one of the reasons for this huge interest in accumulating data is a phenomenon known as data mining, which Wikipedia defines as a process that “attempts to discover patterns in large data sets.”

We’re all aware that data mining technologies will have a big effect on advertising and retail, but I’m not sure the popular media is giving full attention to the radical change it brings to how we think about information and knowledge.

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