Reading about Wikipedia and the longstanding divide between the “inclusionist” and “deletionist” factions of facebook, I began to think about the role of big data not only in documenting the world, but in creating it.
Some background ; the original conflict was between what concepts were important enough to merit their own Wikipedia page, some believed that Wikipedia should be a place to gather best of mankind’s knowledge to make it available to the world. Other’s believed that Wikipedia should make no judgement over its content, and seek to reflect everything that exists. The example given in the book was a south African restaurant that was deemed worthy of having a Wikipedia page over much opposition.
Now, the noteworthiness of one restaurant doesn’t seem like that much of a big deal, but when big data constructs such as Wikipedia and Facebook play such a large part in life, at what point does Big Data stop reflecting life and life start reflecting Big Data? Most of us are on some form of social media, not only that but our events, and relationships are too, people talk about being “Facebook official” organize their social circles online. In a way, it has become so something is only real if it is confirmed online.
This effect is also extending to a certain degree to business as well, with new businesses living and dying by their online presence. Angie’s list and Yelp are the new yellow pages, and if a company does not appear on them, they might as well not exist. Search engines understand this and have begun to charge extra for higher spots on search results. Some business listings engage in more brazen profiteering, charging companies to remove bad reviews from their online pages. In this way, big data has begun to affect reality instead of the other way around. In essence, “So it is written, so it shall be.”