As a student at a liberal arts school, I can really appreciate the data revolution. Without the data revolution, my studies would be solely based on theory and my future contributions to the field could only be changing theory. Because of the data revolution, I can contribute to the field with my own original research, even as a college students. As a college senior, I am currently partaking in a project on a topic within economics that has never been explored, something that would not be possible if it weren’t for the growing amount of data on the internet.
I am very grateful to the people who have made the revolutions in data possible, starting with Francis Bacon, the father of empiricism, and the Royal Society. Both Bacon and the Royal Society came up with the idea of separating themselves from philosophy and noticed the need for experimental science. Richard Bernard’s contributions were also very important to the data we have today, his idea of the common language being the best way to convey scripture allowed many important steps in science and the way that textbooks were written. Data as evidence and data as images became necessary in the world of science and of any type of research oriented fields.
Robert Hooke was the real originator of this trend in Micrographia (1665) where he put images of things that the had seen under a microscope into a textbook. This was revolutionary at the time, as many people had never seen anything under a microscope and were shocked by the things that they had never really observed in the world around them. Hooke used both images and metaphorical language in his textbook to have the most influential impact on the readers. He personified things that many people would argue could not be personified and used much more beautiful language than most people would expect to read in a textbook. Thomas Sprat also began using these ideas around 1667, where he followed the idea of using the bare minimum for written description in his writings so that the common man could understand his ideas.
More modernly, cybernetics, “The study of control and communication in the animal and the machine”, has come about, as has the question of how much information can flow through a system, and how fast? Data visualization has also had a notable impact on the problems and solutions in research within science and other research-oriented fields. Data has always been visual, while “Big data” is a conceptual revolution as much as it is a technological one. When data becomes the main form of the evidence, that is when the revolution begins.
For me, as an economics-mathematics major, the data revolution has been instrumental to my studies. Without the data revolution my college experience and studies would be totally different, I would have learned much more theory and done much less independent thinking. I am able to conduct my own research and come up with my own ideas and research questions. I have gathered thousands of data points to answer my questions, questions that have never been asked before by any other economist.