The Human Face of Big Data

Published: Fri 14 Sep 2012 09:42 AM
Rick Smolan, Creator of the Groundbreaking ‘Day in the Life’ Series, Launches ‘The Human Face of Big Data,’ A Multi-Platform, Globally Crowdsourced Project
Innovative Smartphone App; “Mission Control” Events in New York, London and Singapore; Global Youth Engagement Event; Stunning Book of Photography, Essays and Infographics; Documentary in 2013
Auckland, New Zealand – September 14, 2012
• The Human Face of Big Data project represents the most engaging and captivat-ing attempt ever to tap in to, and put a human face on, the societal impact of Big Data.
• Innovative smartphone app, available on September 25, 2012, engages people around the globe, using the sensors in their phones, through a series of thought-provoking questions about themselves, family, trust and other topics.
• “Mission Control” events to be held on October 2, 2012, in New York, London and Singapore analyse, visualise and interpret data collected from participants around the globe.
• On November 8, 2012, “Data Detectives” youth-oriented events are being held to engage students in discovering their world using data collection and analysis, enabling them to compare their opinions, thoughts, concerns and beliefs through exciting data visualizations and graphics.
• On November 20, 2012, a stunning book of photography, essays and in-fographics is to be unveiled.
Auckland, New Zealand – September 14, 2012 – Elephant seals equipped with antennae on their heads to map the oceans; satellites used to target mosquitoes; an SMS system preventing the sale of counterfeit medicines in Ghana; smartphones that can predict you’re going to get depressed; credit cards that know two years before you do that you’re headed toward divorce; pills that transmit information directly from your body to your physician.
These and other stories are being told through “The Human Face of Big Data,” the latest groundbreaking, globally crowdsourced initiative from Rick Smolan, the creator of the “Day in the Life” series.
The project is made possible through primary sponsorship from EMC® (NYSE:EMC) and is based on the premise that the real-time visualisation of data is enabling humanity to better under-stand many aspects of life.
Data collected by satellites, and by billions of sensors, RFID tags, and GPS-enabled cameras and smartphones around the world, can be used to sense, measure, understand and affect aspects of our existence in ways our ancestors could never have imagined in their wildest dreams.
The multifaceted project kicks off on September 25 with an eight-day “Measure Our World” event inviting people around the world to share and compare their lives in real time through an innovative smartphone app.
The project also includes “Mission Control” events in New York, Singapore and London as well as “Data Detectives,” a global student initiative being conducted in conjunction with the TED organisation. There’s a stunning large-format book featuring more than 200 photographs and essays from noted writers and infographics. An iPad app has been de-veloped and a documentary is being made about the programme.
Supporting Quotes:
Rick Smolan, creator of the groundbreaking “Day in the Life” series and other globally crowdsourced projects, Against All Odds Productions
“My goal with this project is to spark a global conversation about Big Data, about its po-tential if used wisely and the danger if we aren’t very careful. Big Data represents an ex-traordinary knowledge revolution that’s sweeping, almost invisibly, through business, ac-ademia, government, health care and everyday life. And, like all new tools, it carries the potential for unintended consequences. But if we are careful and wise, in the not too dis-tant future this new set of technologies may have an impact on humanity as great as those of language and art.”
Jeremy Burton, executive vice president, Product Operations and Marketing, EMC
“Big Data began in computer labs with a handful of elite scientists. Soon, everyone from grade school students to grandmothers, and all points in between, will awake to the im-pact that Big Data will have on the way we all live, govern, work and play. The Human Face of Big Data is the most engaging and captivating attempt we’ve ever seen to truly tap in to, and put a human face on, the societal impact of Big Data. I’m confident this project will have a lasting and meaningful impact.”
Project Elements:
The Human Face of Big Data project elements include the following:
A Visual Record of Big Data in Action
In March 2012, Rick Smolan and Jennifer Erwitt dispatched more than 100 photogra-phers, editors and writers to every corner of the globe. Their task: to explore the world of Big Data and to determine if it truly does, as many in the field claim, represent a never-before-seen toolset for humanity, helping us address the biggest challenges facing our species.
Smartphone App
From September 25 through October 2, people around the world will be invited to “measure our world” via The Human Face of Big Data app (free and available on iOS and An-droid in five languages). The app will engage people in a series of activities using the sensors in their phones, as well as enable them to compare their responses to thought-provoking questions with others around the globe. Participants will be able to map their daily path, share objects and rituals that bring them luck, get a glimpse into the one spe-cial thing that others want to experience during their lifetime and discover hidden secrets about their world. Participants will also be able to find their “data doppelganger.”
The “Mission Control” Experience
On October 2, representatives of media organizations will be invited to Mission Control events in New York City, London and Singapore, where data collected from participants will be analysed, visualised and interpreted. Experts and innovators in the Big Data arena will share examples of their work in an interactive “Big Data Lab.” A live webcast will enable people around the world to watch the events as the day unfolds.
“Big Data Detectives,” in Association with TEDYouth, Will Engage Students
On November 8, students around the world in grades 6–12 and their teachers will engage in a series of data-collection activities to measure, analyse and map their worlds through the Data Detectives initiative. These activities will connect thousands of students and enable them to compare their opinions, thoughts, concerns and beliefs through exciting data visualisations and graphics.
The Human Face of Big Data Large-Format Illustrated Book
On November 20, The Human Face of Big Data book will be unveiled and will be delivered on the same day to 10,000 of the world’s most influential people, including world leaders, For-tune 500 CEOs and Nobel laureates in 30 countries. The book will feature a fascinating array of more than 200 photographs, compelling essays from noted writers and dramatic infographics from renowned designer Nigel Holmes. The book will also be available for sale online and through major booksellers.
In 2013, The Human Face of Big Data documentary will be released.
About The Human Face of Big Data
The Human Face of Big Data project is editorially independent and is made possible through the generous support of EMC Corporation, which serves as the primary sponsor. Supporting sponsorship comes from Cisco, VMware, Tableau and Originate.
The Human Face of Big Data is a globally crowdsourced media project focusing on the new ability to collect, analyse, triangulate and visualise vast amounts of data in real time. The project includes a free mobile app, Mission Control briefing events, a student element called Data Detectives, a large-format book with more than 200 photographs along with essays and infographics, an iPad app and a documentary.
The Human Face of Big Data is produced by Rick Smolan and Jennifer Erwitt, co-founders of Against All Odds Productions, which specializes in the design and execution of large-scale, crowdsourced global projects that combine compelling storytelling with state-of-the-art technology. To produce these projects, Smolan and Erwitt invite teams of leading journalists and photographers (plus members of the general public) to come together to focus on emerging topics such as the global water crisis, the effect of the Internet on civilization or how the human race is learning to heal itself. Their projects result in bestselling illustrated books, TV specials, apps, exhibits and hundreds of millions of media impressions. Fortune magazine described Against All Odds Productions as “one of the coolest companies in America.”
To learn more, go to and follow the project on Twitter @FaceOfBigData and Facebook.
About EMC
EMC Corporation is a global leader in enabling businesses and service providers to transform their operations and deliver IT as a service. Fundamental to this transformation is cloud computing. Through innovative products and services, EMC accelerates the journey to cloud computing, helping IT departments to store, manage, protect and analyze their most valuable asset—information—in a more agile, trusted and cost-efficient way. Additional information can be found at

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