What is data?

Data is a concept we are both familiar with and unfamiliar with. We deal with data every day, whether we like it or not. We could be texting a friend or family member a message, taking a photo, shooting a video, or browsing the internet. We can even just have a casual conversation with someone on a common interest, and we’d still be dealing with and sharing data. Data isn’t just set of 0's and 1's on a computer, but it is the idea of a set of information that can be shared among other people. Just because it isn’t digital, it doesn’t mean it cannot be data.

We can look at data in a few different ways, depending on what kind of data we are looking for. If we want to focus on small, detailed forms of data, that can give very specific information on a certain topic, we’d want to look at “smart data”. If we want to take a look at a large collection of information pertaining to a certain subject, or looking at trends of data over very long periods of time, we’d be looking at “big data”. Most of the data we deal with in everyday life would be “smart data”. We share small bits of information about ourselves in out actions throughout a day, having conversations, posting pictures on the internet, etc. “Big data”, then is usually seen when someone is doing research on a subject. This is not to say that both are exclusive to those types of situations, but the nature of these kinds of data is relevant or serves an important purpose to its subject matter.

When looking at data, one needs to consider not only what kind of data it is (big or smart), but who is providing the data and the audience it is meant for. Not all data is useful, as some data can be filled with misinformation or bias that may ruin a perfectly good data set. It is very important, then, to know who initially created the data one is looking at. If one is to make sure that their observations are accurate, and their conclusions are sound, they need to make sure that their data is correct. In this digital age, it is easier to publish data that one finds, so it is even more important than it ever was to know who published the data you’re looking for.