There’s a definite art to data science.
But I never really thought of myself as an actual artist until a couple of months ago – Wednesday 22nd April to be precise. Stick figures? Yep, no problem, but that’s where I tend to draw the line.
I can admire the Picassos, Jackson Pollocks, and Damien Hirsts of this world, of course; I’m not a philistine. Being able to combine line, colour and, occasionally, formaldehyde to create a personal impression of your environment is pretty flippin’ amazing.
But what’s a work of art actually worth?
Not everyone agrees. Naysayers still trot out the hoary old chestnut that contemporary artists are no better than a toddler with a yard brush. And then there’s the question of whether ‘worth = talent, experience, and time spent’. Or if, like any commodity, art is worth whatever you can get for it and damn the artsy-fartsy pretensions.
Or does true worth lie somewhere between the two? As in 2011 when, with financial markets in turmoil, Damien Hirst sold 223 works for over £111m – 10 times 1993’s previous record for an auction dedicated to a single artist (88 Picassos). Art for art’s sake, or money for heaven’s sake?
Jobs & Ive – Contemporary Leonardos?
For some time, pockets of IT innovators have been creating industrial art which appeals to the head as well as the heart. People like the late Steve Jobs and Apple AAPL -0.12% design chief Jonathan Ive – true IT artists. I remember laying eyes on their ‘iLamp’ G4 iMac back in 2002. It was so original and ridiculously gorgeous. For the first time in my life, I forgot about MB, GB, or Ghz. I just wanted an iMac.
And now, some data science outputs are being considered fine art in their own right. As well as creating competitive advantage, spawning new products, identifying fraud patterns, and changing business processes in ways that, until now, could only live in the imagination, these beautiful, hypnotic images are adding a new dimension; bringing data analytics to life.
The data road to Damascus.
For the first time, business leaders of every stripe have to grapple with the implications of Big Data. Consequently, the availability of data insights in visual form is an important part of their corporate / technical development, because it can help them assess situations quicker and more accurately, making better-informed decisions as a result.
So, instead of having to pore over a sheaf of Excel sheets to try to build up an overall picture of what’s happening, you can work with an eye-opening visual interpretation of all available information drawn from right across the business. The difference is as great as having the sight of a haystack in a wheat field on a sultry summer’s day described to you by the provisional wing of the bored-teenagers alliance, or being presented with Monet’s interpretation of the scene. We’re visual beings – that’s the way we process information and why young children learn from picture books more readily.
To prove they nourish the soul as well as business interests, Teradata showed 20 Aster-output artworks at The Art of Analytics exhibition, Teradata Universe April 2015, Amsterdam.Exhibiting data-science artists used a wide range of datasets – from Telco and Life Sciences, through to Insurance and even the Whisky industry – to generate these beautiful works of art.
However, although blessed (or should that be cursed) with the creative temperament, you won’t find Big Data & analytics artists brooding in garrets or basements, singing the blues. They come from a wealth of well-rounded data-science backgrounds, and hide in plain sight.
Working with just ones, noughts, and a saucerful of secrets, these ground-breaking artists stand front and centre of any modern corporate or commerical strategy. At the cutting edge where business, Big Data, and analytics meet.
Analytics reveal things about your entire business that can’t be seen with the naked eye. Data-science artists give you a prescription lens to focus and magnify those insights, so you can build a better business.
Every organisation should be looking to channel the spirit of the data artist, and turn scratchy stickman hunches into living, breathing, analytical certainties. That way they can escape the Big Data equivalent of Bruegel’s Tower of Babel.
This blog first appeared on Forbes TeradataVoice on 30/06/2015
Latest posts by Ben Davis (see all)
- Mastering colours in your data visualisations - March 8, 2017
- Spotting the pretenders in Data Science - February 15, 2017
- Leveraging all Data in a Government/Client Engagement - November 15, 2016
- Can we defeat DDoS using analytics? - August 15, 2016
- The pitfalls of DIY Hadoop - August 8, 2016