Making a Big Bang with Data at Somerset House

Our News

Ninety percent of the data that exists in the world today was created in the past two years. *Mind blown*. For our monthly team social, teams Phoenix and Audi headed to the Big Bang Data Exhibition at Somerset House, a thought provoking exhibition that looks at our relationship with data through beautiful visualisation – how it’s stored, used and generated.

Members of Team Phoenix (HSBC and Google) and Team Audi

The exhibition was full of data art installations, such as faces constructed from DNA found on cigarette butts, the analysis of the selfie in different cities (apparently in London we smile the least!), and a project showing the location of where cat pictures were taken by their owners (yep, seriously). It made us think about what we share, and the data we leave lying around, both physically and digitally – are we really aware of what we’re doing with the data we share, and specifically, what data are we giving away?

‘I know where your cat lives’ installation

data selfie
Data selfie

The Data Selfie display was particularly fascinating. We were reminded that all selfies have a physical presence; the 2.5 quintillion bytes of data we created every day in 2012 alone and more is kept in closely guarded data storage centres connected by 300 cables underneath the sea – the cloud. Yes, the cloud is actually underground. And despite all this data, these centres are mostly empty, just waiting for the next hundred (or hundred million) selfies to arrive.

Google in Finland
The ‘physical’ Google in Finland

standing on the cloud
Standing on the cloud

My other personal highlight from the exhibition looked at the many depictions of data being used for good and how we can make more of this. For example, The Guardian created an interactive website to allow people to browse where they could afford to buy a house, by collecting 19.6 million individual records of property transactions and presenting it in an easily digestible way.

A control room-style exhibit where you can track what’s happening in London (very Big Brother), and answer questions to make decisions about the city’s future got us thinking about how we marketers use data. Digital marketing is a data-driven business, allowing agencies and brands to talk directly to their customers. It’s also handy for making us better – understanding data allows us to gather feedback that businesses and agencies need to iron out imperfections and continuously improve. Of course given the vast quantities of data now available, as an industry we need to be responsible for how we use it, focusing on quality rather than quantity – collecting only what we need to make products and services better for consumers.