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Big Data and Creativity

Big DataWe’ve all heard about how important it is to be able to collect and process vast amounts of data in real time, and about the impact big data has had on businesses in the past few years. And it’s true that in many industries, it’s impossible to remain competitive without being able to handle those large data sets. Attempting to operate without the amounts of information the competition has at its disposal is next to impossible.

Big data is important – perhaps even indispensable – for business, but it’s a death knell for creativity if used in the wrong way.

Not All Industries Are the Same

All businesses need to remain profitable, but not necessarily to the same degree. Certain industries are fundamentally different. Health care, education, and the entertainment industry all affect society at a fundamental level, and if any of them are run purely from a profit maximizing standpoint, society suffers.

A House of Cards

The original Netflix series House of Cards has become an enormous hit since its debut 4 years ago, surprising everyone except its creators. They knew it would be wildly popular, as they had used sophisticated data tools to analyze Netflix viewers’ viewing data for the previous several years to guide the creative process.

While this has resulted in a very successful series this time, there is a fundamental flaw in using big data in this way, in an industry built on a foundation of creativity.

The process the House of Cards producers followed can really only result in giving people more of what they already like. There are only so many permutations of the same thing possible to make, and eventually the people will become bored.

Pattern Recognition

The real power of big data tools is in being able to sift through huge amounts of information and identify patterns in that information of which people would otherwise be totally unaware. This enables the ability to take action and make decisions that leverage the beneficial patterns and eliminate or minimize the damage of the negative patterns. When big data is harnessed in a creative pursuit, it does what it is meant to do: identify patterns. The only thing this generally allows the people involved to do, however, is recreate those patterns.

Art Is Different

Art is necessary for the healthy functioning of a society. Without creativity, new expressions a culture wither and die. Big data can be a very useful tool on the business side of the creative industries – marketing, distribution, that sort of thing – but for the sake of creativity itself, it has no place in the creative space.

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