Unless you’ve been living on a secluded island without Internet for the last several years, you’ve heard about Big Data. It’s the 21st century buzzword, relevant to every industry imaginable. From Google and the NSA to Safeway and Forever21, everyone who’s anyone is trying to figure out how to capture and make sense of our digital footprints. Anytime there’s a large family gathering at my parent’s house for example, you’ll find my mother (changing education through data science) and my brother-in-law (the real brains behind Ebay’s data infrastructure) dropping all kinds of data lingo and deconstructing the ins and outs of data privacy law, debating how to encourage best, cross-agency data sharing practices, and brainstorming how to strengthen and structure the virtual cloud. (We’re a bit odd, my family. In the best way possible)
When I think about the relevance of Big Data for fashion and trend forecasting, I always come back to the idea of the “experiencing Self.” At the end of the day, no matter what question you ask or which algorithm you design, we’re attempting to quantify the behavior of living, breathing human beings. We are data. We are the nodes, the connectors, the deviations and the outliers. We are the graphs, the maps, and the numbers. I have to wonder: is our data big enough. Is our data big enough to mine emotional experience? Is our data big enough to account for the black swans inherent in every complex adaptive system?
Big Data will undoubtedly change the ways we do business, how we re-imagine education and learning, and the ways we forecast the future. Without the right questions however, I fear our predictions and interpretations will fall severely short of qualitative change. Without disregarding the importance of data, I have to wonder if the numbers are enough.
In trend forecasting, we are in charge of imagining complex, adaptive ecosystems. Without a great degree of socio-historical, political and economic fluency, our predictions will fall short. If we set the stage too broadly, our estimations cannot be made quantifiable. Big data may help us cement certain particulars, but I think the game has just begun.
Enjoy the extended preview of RAW 2015 shown below!