App review: the human face of big data

Photo © Peter Menzel 2012 / from The Human Face of Big Data
Photo © Peter Menzel 2012 / from The Human Face of Big Data

The Human Face of Big Data is:

“[…] a globally crowdsourced media project focusing on humanity’s new ability to collect, analyze, triangulate and visualize vast amounts of data in real time.”

Crowdsourcing the data is done through a mobile app survey. You can download the app for Android and, as of last Thursday, iOS.

Questions are grouped into topics on family, trust, sleep and dreams, sex and dating, demographics, and yourself. The survey is open until 20th November 2012.

I’ve just completed the survey on my iPhone. It has a slick design. After answering each question, you see instant feedback on how your responses compare to others in the survey. For example, here’s a screen showing what respondents think is most important for good health:

Summary of responses to question "what is most important for good health?"

I spent about 10 minutes answering the survey. I quite enjoyed it. It makes you think about your world and what you really value in life, which is a good thing.

After finishing the survey, I looked around the app asking what else I could explore. To be honest, I was a little disappointed.

One of the two features in the app besides the survey is “your data doppelgänger,” an image of the person who most closely matches your survey responses. Somewhat frivolous and not very interesting (to me).

your data doppelgänger

What I would have liked is some kind of download or export – say, a poster of those lovely, slick screens I saw when completing the survey. Or see how my responses tied in to personality types.

I realise I’m being grouchy. The app has a lovely design, it’s a great idea and – in the spirit of openness and contributing online – yes, of course I’m happy to put something into the survey.

As with any survey reliant on a mobile app to collect data, the survey is self-selecting people with a certain level of digital awareness and a demographic that can afford (or want) smartphones.

I’d like to see a project like this make use of tv in some way. A similar format to the BBC’s Test the Nation, which captured huge UK audiences, combined with audiences submitting responses through their tv handset would be interesting.

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