18 March 2021

Research pick: Data mining big data news - "When big data made the headlines: mining the text of big data coverage in the news media"

While the term “big data” has become something of a buzz phrase in recent years it has a solid foundation in computer science in many contexts and as such has emerged into the public consciousness via the media and even government initiatives in many parts of the world. A North American team has looked at the media and undertaken a mining operation to unearth nuggets of news regarding this term.

Murtaza Haider of the Ted Rogers School of Management at Ryerson University in Toronto, Canada and Amir Gandomi of the Frank G. Zarb School of Business at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York, USA, explain how big data-driven analytics emerged as one of the most sought-after business strategies of the decade. They have now used natural language processing and text mining algorithms to find the focus and tenor of news coverage surrounding big data. They mined a five million-word body of news coverage for references to the novelty of big data, showcasing the usual suspects in big data geographies and industries.

“The insights gained from the text analysis show that big data news coverage indeed evolved where the initial focus on the promise of big data moderated over time,” the team found. There work also demonstrates how text mining and NLP algorithms are potent tools for news content analysis.

The team points out that academic journals have been the main source of trusted and unbiased advice regarding computing technologies, large databases, and scalable analytics, it is the popular and trade press that are the information source for over-stretched executives. It was the popular media that became what the team describes as “the primary channel for spreading awareness about ‘big data’ as a marketing concept”. They add that the news media certainly helped popularise innovative ideas being discussed in the academic literature.

Moreover, the latter has had to play catchup during the last decade on sharing the news. That said, much of the news coverage during this time has been about the novelty and the promise of big data rather than the proof of principles that are needed for it to proceed and mature as a discipline. Indeed, there are many big data clichés propagated in an often uncritical popular media suggesting that big data analytics is some kind of information panacea. In contrast, the more reserved nature of academic publication knows only too well that big data does not represent a cure-all for socio-economic ills nor does it have unlimited potential.

Haider, M. and Gandomi, A. (2021) ‘When big data made the headlines: mining the text of big data coverage in the news media’, Int. J. Services Technology and Management, Vol. 27, Nos. 1/2, pp.23–50.

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