NU-Q to tackle connection between “big data” and media at open symposium

October 29, 2013

In an effort to advance the understanding of how large, complex data can be used by media organizations and grasped by their audiences, Northwestern University in Qatar has announced an open symposium, to be held November 19 at NU-Q under the theme “Big Data, Smart Media? Connecting Content, Audience and Information.”

The symposium will apply the booming phenomenon of “big data” to the understanding of media management, as well as to content production and consumption. The Economist’s Data Editor and former Wall Street Journal technology editor, Kenneth Cukier, will open the session via live video conference with insights from his recent book Big Data: A Revolution That Will Transform How We Live, Work, and Think.

Panels feature a range of leading scholars, professionals and other global experts in big data from renowned institutions including, University of Oxford Reuters Institute, Columbia University and Al Jazeera Media Network.

“Big data” is the term for a collection of data sets so large and complex that it becomes difficult to process using traditional data processing applications. Accurate analysis of big data and its impact on media has come under the spotlight recently, following the series of news reports on the U.S. National Security Agency’s (NSA) surveillance programs.

According to Everette E. Dennis, dean and CEO of NU-Q, the increasing availability of mass information made possible by the internet and social media has generated an urgency to develop tools for turning huge amounts of data into useful knowledge.

“Big data is the next frontier in analyzing the ways in which society shapes and consumes media,” said Dennis. “The exceptional technologies and manpower required to process such large quantities of data have created a need within the media industry to further our understanding of Big Data, in terms of what content we produce, how we produce it, and how we can best deliver it to our audiences. It is also a crucial subject for journalists, as some of the biggest stories of our day, such as national security and many global trends, are a direct result of the emergence of big data.”

The outcomes of the conference will result in a report that will provide a conceptual road map to big data issues, trends and implications for those pursuing careers in media as well as for the broader industry, Dennis added.

Discussion topics will include the social, economic and political consequences of big data, as well as a presentation on the use of big data in surveillance by Martha Stone, CEO of World Newsmedia Group and University of Oxford Reuters Institute research fellow. Yaser Bishr, executive director of research and strategy at Al Jazeera Media Network, will speak about using big data in corporate decision-making.

NU-Q will also offer attendees big data resources and tools including interactive visuals that demonstrate the transformation of big data into easily digested and understandable information, as well as stories, books, and tools for big data analytics.