In the era of big data, Kenneth Cukier and Viktor Mayer-Schonberger noted in their book Big Data: A Revolution That Will Transform How We Live, Work, and Think, “we are in the midst of a great infrastructure project that in some ways rivals those of the past, from the Roman aqueducts to the Enlightenment’s Encyclopédie. We fail to appreciate this because today’s project is so new, because we are in the middle of it, and because unlike the water that flows on the aqueducts the product of our labors is intangible.”
While we often equate the era of big data with the seemingly magical power of data scientists, there are, as there have always been and always will be, men and women behind the curtain whose tireless efforts supporting the great and powerful data far too often go unheralded.
“Aqueducts made possible the growth of cities and the printing press facilitated the Enlightenment,” Cukier and Mayer-Schonberger remarked. But, of course, the aqueducts neither built nor maintained themselves, and the printing press still needed people to write enlightening words, as well as people to maintain the supply chain that printed and delivered those enlightening words to the masses.
According to Clarke’s Third Law, “any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” As amazing as big data technology and data scientists are, high-quality data doesn’t magically happen. Instead of magicians, data is dependent on data stewards, the architects of the invisible, the tamers of the intangible, who make possible the growth of organizations and facilitate the enterprise’s quest for tangible business benefits derived from its data, driven to find the data-driven insights to facilitate a business enlightenment.
Make visible your appreciation
Make visible your appreciation for your architects of the invisible. By November 4, nominate a data steward whom you believe should not only be appreciated, but should be recognized as the 2013 Data Steward of the Year.
The winner will be announced on November 19, which is International Data Stewards Day.