Our Info Hunger And Dark Data

According to a report from researchers at the University of California, the average American consumes almost 34 gigabytes of data a each day.

While AT&T tries to find solutions to cope with iPhone users’s data usage, a report suggests that the scenario may only get worse if mobile use follows broadband use. According to a report from researchers at the University of California, the average American consumes almost 34 gigabytes of data a each day. Gaming is taking up to 55% of that data. Meanwhile, we are also consuming up to 100,000 words a day on the web, in print and listened to on TV.

The report is well worth a download as it’s full of all that scientific data you can use, dear readers, to put in your PowerPoints to persuade anybody about a course of action that comes from your gut. Probably the more interesting aspects of the report are the trends and forecasts at the end of the document. Here’s a piece on Dark Data that caught our attention:

A final factor is the rise of “dark data.” When electronics were expensive, devices were naturally reserved for high-value activities. People and information worked closely together. But now one million transistors costs less than one cent, yet people’s time is still valuable. We can no longer afford, nor do we need, to have people closely scrutinizing data as it is created and used. Instead, we hypothesize that most data is created, used, and thrown away without any person ever being aware

of its existence. Just as cosmic dark matter is detected indirectly only through its effect on things that we can see, dark data is not directly visible to people.

Examples of dark data occur in the home, although most of it is elsewhere. Data can be created in an automated fashion without the consumer intervening. For example, a consumer can set a DVR just by specifying the name of the program, not when it is broadcast. Information is exchanged over the Internet between the cable company’s computer and the DVR, and the DVR decides when to record, and what channel. We recognize the results of the dark data when we turn on the DVR and it is converted to information on our TV screen.

The family auto (or automobiles) is a more typical example of dark data. Luxury and high-performance cars today carry more than 100 microcontrollers and several hundred sensors, with update rates ranging from one to more than 1,000 readings per second.
One estimate is that from 35 to 40 percent of a car’s sticker price goes to pay for software and electronics.38 As microprocessors and sensors ‘talk’ to each other, their ability to process information becomes critical for auto safety. For example, airbags use accelerometers, which measure the physical motion of a tiny silicon beam. From that motion, the car’s acceleration is calculated,39 and approximately 100 times each second, this data is sent to a microprocessor, which uses the last few seconds of measurements to decide whether and at what intensity to inflate the airbag in the event of a collision. Over the life of an auto, each accelerometer will produce more than one billion measurements. Yet in a crash, only the last few data points are critical.40 Each sensor creates several gigabytes of data without a single byte that counted as “information” in our analysis of consumer information.

The phenomenon of dark data permeates modern digital technology.

Meanwhile image below from Online Education and although it doesn’t reflect the report’s research data, it gives a good outline on the scale of our web usage.


How Much Information? 2009 Report on American Consumers (PDF)

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