Data literacy: Where are we now?

I wrote this in January 2012, after years of closely following Adriana‘s efforts to convince companies to let users access their raw data. At this point, with the fear-mongering happening in the press, I’m afraid that it will only happen by force when regulators make it the law.

In the not so distant past, I’ve encountered brands that carried out huge, costly campaigns without ever tracking a byte of data. Today, doing so would be grounds for immediate termination (or at least it should be). Yet users (by which I mean customers) are expected to go without their data as a matter of course.

Not so long ago, only those who possessed HTML coding skills could have their say online. Today, for better or for worse, the proliferation of easy-to-use platforms and apps has enabled anyone to publish, share, and drive commerce.

How many companies wish they’d been out in front of this shift? Remember what a buzz term “user generated content” used to be? Yeah, nobody really utters that phrase anymore because the demand side supplying itself is now the norm.

Yet data literacy is almost nil in our culture. There are huge opportunities there, for marketers as well as customers. Nike+ is extremely cool, but it’s just a start. There’s a wide open field for leaders to emerge. I hope they do, and quickly, before hysteria over privacy takes us to a deeply uncomfortable – and unprofitable – place.


One thought on “Data literacy: Where are we now?

  1. It’s a funny thing – the fear of companies to give us our data (and not just access to it), which has come to be seen as their asset. Not that they get and make much out of it, mind you. The idea that you and only you know the full context of your data and therefore can add value no one else can completely passes them by. The advantages of giving us our raw data and then treating us nicely so we share with them the fruits of our own analysis are immeasurable. Literally, as at the moment this is not possible. However, there’s hope as the Quantified Self movement consists of people who gather their own data and are not always constrained by it being locked in silos. I am afraid this is just a beginning of a battle and I don’t think anyone can predict its outcome.
    In this context, data literacy seems a rather utopian notion but one that makes it worthwhile for me do to as much as I can for the QS movement where people already have motivation to understand their data and ultimately themselves.

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