General Assembly: Talk Data to Me

Past Tides
June 2, 2017 By Grace Wood

On May 2, the Cove hosted a screening of the documentary film, “Big Data: Unlocking Success” at the Talk Data to Me event in collaboration with General Assembly. Following the viewing, a panel comprised of experts from the field answered audience questions about the impact and influence big data has on business, consumers, and everyday life. Members of the panel included Steven Itano Wasserman, Director and Producing Partner of the film; Michelle Flowers Taylor, Ed.D, Director of IEC3 at USC Viterbi School of Engineering; Marek Mandau, Analytics Program Manager at Applied Innovation; and Farouk Ferchichi, an executive advisor to a multitude of chief analytics of officers around the country. Each provided clear and necessary insight into the exciting world of big data from a variety of unique perspectives. Mandau summed up the topic, in terms of business, most succinctly in saying, “big data is a tool used to ‘derisk’ your business venture in some competitive way.”

After introductions, the moderator asked panel members what they consider to be the most interesting aspect of big data. Each person had an individual answer tailored to his/her career. Ferchichi cited empowerment. He stated, “As I evolve from a tactician into management and leadership, empowerment sticks.” Big data allows greater communication among large movements, groups, and organizations. It lets users make a difference in a way not previously thought possible.

From a filmmaker’s perspective, Wasserman believed big data grouped information into a more cohesive blend that goes past the nitty-gritty into the big picture of knowledge. After each panelist answered, the floor opened to Q&A. The panelists highlighted both the unknowns and continual evolution of the industry – reminding the audience that a lot of the technology related to their questions is currently ‘in the works.’ One young woman brought up the issue of privacy in big data, to which Taylor answered, “Everything starts with an idea. You have the ability to create a guild to advocate for ethical use of big data. Our privacy is changing more and more each day.”

At the end of the question period, the moderator inquired about the technologies the panelists saw as the future of the field. Wasserman focused on cybernetics and how it influences daily life. He said, “We still haven’t figured out the whole human component of analytics. The cybernetics element will tell us more. How do we guide our own understanding of ourselves through it?”. Taylor, who works closely with girls interested in STEM through her program at USC, took on a different perspective. Rather than focus on technology, she noted the influence big data could have on our education systems, particularly K-12. “I would like to see that impact of learning for young kids because, otherwise, we stifle their ability to see what’s possible,” she explained. A networking reception began at the conclusion of the panel, encouraging the audience to converse directly with the experts about opportunities and ask further questions related to big data.

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