What Justin Bieber Proves About The Human Face Of Big Data

Shelly Dutton

$80 million. That’s what Justin Bieber earned in 2014 for doing – nothing. No new album release. No tour. No new endorsements. Not even a guest appearance on a television show or movie, unless you count his cameo as a prisoner on “Behaving Badly” which is hardly Justin_Bieber_2011_2worth $80 million dollars.

For most music artists, taking a year-long hiatus, becoming known for numerous legal run-ins, and being the target of a petition for deportation can be career-ending. But not for the Biebs. His legion of 66.8 million “beliebers” remain loyal and are feverishly downloading his latest song, “What Do You Mean,” which dropped last week.

Are his followers brainwashed? No. It just happens that his music resonates with them – and yes, Big Data is the blame.

Landing the next chart-topping hit with Big Data

Digitalization and hyperconnectivity have rocked the very core of the music business, changing how consumers buy, play, and discover new music. But more important is the data generated from those transactions and social media impressions that are influencing how music is being created.

Now, music executives are creating platforms that connect artists with their fans. On the exterior, this may appear to be an approach to enhance the consumer experience – and that may be the case. However, it’s the analytical data generated that’s more valuable to these executives as they struggle to understand which songs the public wants and to produce more of them. Take Spotify’s deal to acquire Echo Nest to help users find music that matches their listening preferences. And even Warner Music Group is seeking new artists through detailed statistics provided by Shazam.

Although the creative process behind creating new music appears to be democratic, it’s actually driven by perceived insight from social media, e-commerce channels, and physical retailers. And it’s not just the music industry that’s using this strategy.

The human face of Big Data

In a recent episode of SAP Radio, Sandy Smolan, award-winning director of the film “The Human Face of Big Data,” observed, “We are inundated with a lot of wonderful, powerful technology, and it is up to us to figure out how we are going to use it. We are at a critical turning point in history where there are phenomenal resources at hand, and yet those resources can be used in a multitude of ways. Our hope is that they will be used for good, but not unless we embrace and use it in a responsible way. And we need to use it to shape our future rather than allowing someone else to shape us.”

Big Data is changing every aspect of our lives, most of which are hardly noticeable and working quietly in the background. However, if you are not aware of such advancements, you may be surprised of the outcomes – good and bad. Here are three areas you should watch over the next few years.

1. You may not own any data about yourself

Everything we do is being aggregated. What and how we buy. What we eat. How many steps we take. Risk factors in our health, behaviors, and finances. Even the quality of our sleep and our thermostat settings are tracked. Although there is great value in this information, their anonymity and privacy is important to consumers.

Who owns your information? Do you? Do Facebook and Twitter? Does the government? Does your healthcare provider? What about the corporate world? According to David Jonker, director of Big Data at SAP, “The longer-term consequence is that corporations can use this data and use it as they see fit within certain boundaries. This may drive a fundamental shift in how our society behaves and the economy runs.”

2. Data fuels social change

Big Data is providing a new depth of detail on social issues – even those most of the world didn’t know existed. Advocate organizations are accessing and learning from information submitted by individuals not only observing the issue, but living it. By aggregating it and gaining insights in real time, people are motivated and mobilized to help resolve the problem and make another corner of the world a better place for a community, nation, and new generation.

One example of data activism through Big Data is the BLACK Monday Movement in Uganda. Started by a civilian organization in 2012, the effort publicized stories of corruption and the existence of money available to provide constituent services. With the help of Facebook and other social platforms, organizers created a space for awareness, debate, and criticism of social wrongs as well as political and corporate interest groups.

3. A 15-minute checkup can help deter an international epidemic

Pretty soon, a doctor’s note listing your symptoms during a checkup will be cross-checked by your region’s healthcare community to identify outbreaks and epidemics in record time.

Shortness of breath? It may not be as simple as a heart attack as shown by your smartphone’s heart-rate monitor. In fact, your doctor can aggregate those readings and your medical history and risk factors to reveal any hidden trends and your treatment options without unnecessary testing and at a lower risk of misdiagnosis. Medical research is now being combined into massive searchable databases, making it easier to assess and compare results. By absorbing terabytes of disparate data including prescription dosages, environmental patterns, and age-related trends, physicians can have a clearer picture of whether a drug, weather and humidity, or animal migration patterns are causing the health problem.

How else will Big Data change our lives? Check out the film “The Human Face of Big Data.”