Top 5 Big Data Sessions

Big data has become a major topic of conversation across several industries. Journalists, advertisers, politicians and programmers are all talking about it. But what is big data to you? To your field? Each of these five sessions looks at a different aspect of big data and how it relates to a specific field.

1. Big Data Democracy: The Rise of Analytics

When: Sunday, March 10, 3:30 p.m.

Where: Wanderlust, 206 E. 4th St.

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Mark McKinnon

Political strategists have long used numbers to work out how best to employ their resources. But even with polling data, this process relied heavily on intuition. In 2012, that all changed.

Nate Silver’s seemingly prophetic data models and Obama’s legion of programmers boiled the art of political strategy down to a science, literally. The outcome of the 2012 election showed how proper analysis of big data can help a political campaign determine exactly what resources to put where and when, with greater precision and, clearly, much greater success.

Mark McKinnon, global vice chairman for Hill+Knowlton Strategies, will lead this advanced session, focusing on trends in political data analysis and examining exactly how analyzing big data helps political campaigns predict voter behavior with extreme accuracy.

Follow McKinnon on Twitter @mmckinnon.

2. The New Nature vs. Nurture: Big Data & Identity

When: Friday, March 8, 5 p.m.
Where: Radisson Town Lake, 111 E. Cesar Chavez St., Town Lake Ballroom

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Jen Lowe
thumbnail of molly steenson
Molly Steenson

So what happens to us as human beings in this brave new world of coding and quantifying everything we do, think and feel? Jen Lowe, associate research scholar at the Columbia University Spatial Information Design Lab, and Molly Wright Steenson, an assistant professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, examine what they call the “algorithmed life” in this intermediate level session.

According to Lowe and Steenson, the amount of data we can now access about ourselves may impact our self-awareness, not to mention the effects of precision marketing now possible with big data analysis. In this session, they will discuss the opportunities and dangers associated with this new “nature and nurture” and examine how the abundance of big data affects how we define our own identities.

Follow Jen Lowe on Twitter @datatelling and Molly Wright Steenson @uwmolly.

3. Data Science Through the Lens of Journalism

When: Saturday, March 9, 3:45 p.m.

Where: Hilton Austin Downtown, 500 E. 4th St., Room 616AB

Zanab Hussain, a data scientist with SimpleReach, will discuss exactly what constitutes big data and what journalists should know about data science and statistics.

A former journalist himself, Hussain explains how data analysis is really not so far removed from traditional news reporting. Journalists gather information, analyze that information and work out the story from the bits and pieces. It’s really just a matter of changing how you gather information.

An intermediate level session, this presentation will cover some basic statistical concepts. However, Hussain says he’ll avoid “excess equations.”

Follow Zanab Hussain on Twitter @ohzanab.

4. Playing with Your Own Big Data

When: Sunday, March 10, 12:30 p.m.

Where: Hilton Downtown Austin, 500 E. 4th St., 616AB

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Ed Hunsinger

If you think only big companies can use big data, think again. In this session, Ed Hunsinger of Splunk looks at how we as individuals can collect the data we generate and use it to our own benefit. Why let advertisers have all the fun playing with the data you leave behind?

Hunsinger says there are all sorts of tools that allow individuals to take back their own big data and put it to work for them the same way those big marketers do. You just have to know where to look. This session is for beginners.

Follow Ed Hunsinger on Twitter @edrabbit.

5. Big Data: Is It Killing Creativity?

When: Sunday, March 10, 4 p.m.

Where: Hilton Austin Downtown, 500 E. 4th St., Room 616AB

Once relying on creative storytelling and educated guesswork, marketers now have access to a wealth of information about their audiences thanks to big data and marketing analytics. But is there such a thing as too much data? Aseem Chandra, vice president of marketing at Adobe Systems Inc., will look at at how creativity and big data work together and, in some cases, don’t.

In this quick Future15 session, Chandra will discuss what dangers may lie ahead for marketers who don’t use big data properly.

Follow Aseem Chandra on Twitter @aseemchandra.