Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The Next Frontier: Decoding the Internet's Raw Data

The Next Frontier: Decoding the Internet's Raw Data

Washington Post (06/01/09) P. A10; Hart, Kim

The massive amounts of data available on the Internet
potentially have infinite uses. For example, advertisers want to mine
photos and status updates on social networks to better sell products,
while scientists are tracking weather patterns using decades of climate
records. Now, U.S. White House officials want to make government data
available to the public so citizens can monitor government actions. The
problem is determining how to organize and display such a massive
amount of data without having to sift through volumes of spreadsheets.
Participants at the recent symposium at the University of Maryland's
Human-Computer Interaction Lab focused on solving this problem. "We're
trying to understand data and make sense of it visually, but there's no
way of evaluating how effective these visuals really are for people,"
says PricewaterhouseCoopers research manager Mave Houston. Analysts
from the U.S. Department of Defense, SAIC, and Lockheed Martin
expressed their frustrations with available information visualization
tools, which are too complex for novice users, frequently do not work
well with user-generated content, and have difficulty handling large
amounts of data. The Human-Computer Interaction Lab is working on ways
of linking information, creating user-friendly technology devices, and
improving how people interact with the Web. "Our belief is that
technology is not just useful as toys or for business," says lab
founder Ben Shneiderman. "We're talking about using these technologies
for national priorities."

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