A Remedy for Stagnation?

As I read Lev Manovich’s Trending: The Promises and the Challenges of Big Social Data, I kept wondering if Manovich was going to address how big data could be accessible and used for all researchers, not just people in special positions in particular companies and with special skills. I was rather disappointed when he ended his article with that question and no answer. This question of accessibility and usefulness for all people seems to be a rather important one. Manovich addresses that if big data research is limited to these people in specified areas of work and knowledge, it is almost going to waste, but I really do think that the above question needs an answer.

Manovich’s only answer to this question is about how the people themselves need to change in order for big data to be used. On page 14. Manovich states, “However, this requires a big change in how students, particularly in humanities, are being educated.” He is talking about how, in order to understand and manipulate the data, the user must know programming. They must, essentially, be computer scientists. Though I don’t disagree with this, I think, however, that most of the change needs to be in how accessible it is for people to get ahold of these pieces of data. It appears that, according to Manovich, it is impossible for an ordinary person to get most of the information that is collected.

If this problem cannot be remedied, then it is pointless to attempt to have students educated differently in order to be able to analyze and interpret the data. Is there truly a way for this big data to be available to more people? I completely agree with Manovich that this data is there and should be used for research. Currently, it seems to be going almost completely to waste. It is available to such a small network of people that, compared to how much information there is, it seems to be being rendered useless. So, is there a way to make this information available to researchers, including students? Is there any growth in the availability of this data? If not, perhaps this whole conversation is pointless. Perhaps we are stuck.