Big data: what it means for qualitative researchers
Keep up to speed with current industry debate on big data and research with this article by Colin Strong, Managing Director, GfK NOP Business & Technology. This article was first published by In Brief, the magazine of the Association of Qualitative Research.
Custodians of context
What does big data mean for qualitative researchers? It's tempting, but unrealistic, to think it's irrelevant to the industry.
Society is currently coming to terms with the exponential increase in data now available - often tagged big data - and the effect its use is having on our lives. Historically, we viewed datafication in the context of our physical environment, mapping continents or charting the stars say, to enable boats to navigate from one to another.
Now, though, the business of transforming phenomena into data has moved on. And, since our lives are often played out in a digital environment, the possibilities for datafication are endless. Indeed, it has even turned to what was once an intimate and private world, human relationships, with Facebook's social graph firmly claiming the data territory. Twitter has datafied sentiment to the extent that it can be used to predict the success of films or even stock market performance.
So does this herald the end of market research's data collection role in the form of a survey or a focus group? Big data is increasingly providing us with answers that are far more granular and accurate than we ever could have dreamt of collecting by asking questions of respondents.