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The Future of Journalism (and Everything) Is Data

Tim Berners-Lee believes data is the future of journalism. It might also be the future of the humanities. Reading (code) just became fundamental.

Tech-prognosticator Tim Berners-Lee believes the future of journalism is data analysis. From the Guardian:

Speaking on Friday at the launch of the first government datasets for spending by departments of more than £25,000, he was asked who will analyse them once the geeks have moved on. What's the point? Who's really going to hold government, or anyone else, accountable?

"The responsibility needs to be with the press," Berners-Lee responded firmly. "Journalists need to be data-savvy. It used to be that you would get stories by chatting to people in bars, and it still might be that you'll do it that way some times.

"But now it's also going to be about poring over data and equipping yourself with the tools to analyse it and picking out what's interesting. And keeping it in perspective, helping people out by really seeing where it all fits together, and what's going on in the country."


He's got a point. Techonology's offer of unprecedented access to data means little if you're not equipped to make sense of it. And it behooves journalists—regardless of their medium—to use the tools at their disposal. (Though recent history suggests the future of journalism will always include essays on what the future of journalism is.)

But this obsession with data is in no way limited to media. According to The New York Times, although data analysis and technology might seem unlikely methods for answering questions of aesthetics and ontology, some humanities departments are rapidly evolving:

These researchers are digitally mapping Civil War battlefields to understand what role topography played in victory, using databases of thousands of jam sessions to track how musical collaborations influenced jazz, searching through large numbers of scientific texts and books to track where concepts first appeared and how they spread, and combining animation, charts and primary documents about Thomas Jefferson’s travels to create new ways to teach history.


Distinctions between sciences and humanities will likely continue to erode. Have you witnessed this sort of cross-pollination?

Bob Woodward and computer photo (cc) by Flickr user cliff1066

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