The Big Vibrant Data Revolution


Posted by Neil Wilson on 6/12/13 4:00 AM


This blog often focuses on data: the value of data, the progress toward standardization, and the power of asking permission before using data.

Quite a few others are focusing on this topic, as well. For example, a group of smart, creative, progressive thinkers have been collaborating on the “Vibrant Data Project.” The participants — a “collaborative collective of scientists, artists, designers, and social investors”— are actively “developing data-driven tools/approaches to navigate the complex landscape of our most pressing problems and convert limited resources into problem solving engines for positive change.”


Vibrant Data Labs recently partnered with a few other companies, including Intel Labs, to launch the revolutionary website “” This site features relevant news articles and interviews, acts as an organization point for events, shares ways to participate, and invites conversation “around core challenges for empowering a much more decentralized approach – where individuals retain more control over their personal data, collaboratively discover its value and directly benefit from it.”

eric_berlowEric Berlow, a TED Fellow and one of the primary visionaries of the We the Data and Vibrant Data Labs projects, understands the power of data and aims to “democratize” it. In an interview he gave last year on the TED blog, Berlow describes the data problem as “a world where our every purchase, every non-purchase, every curiosity, every tweet and ‘“like”’, every movement, is being tracked. Like it or not, We are Data. We are the customer, but our data are the product.”

map1After mapping the complexities of this problem, they discovered four Grand Challenge areas for democratizing data:

  • Digital Infrastructure (broader access to the underserved),
  • Digital Trust (protection of personal identity, and reputation systems for accountability),
  • Digital Literacy (widespread access to intuitively asking questions with data and thinking critically about the answers) and
  • Platform Openness (the ability to copy, edit and customize platforms that facilitate finding meaning from data).

These are some of the areas that dozens of people seek to solve through We the Data, and which may ultimately benefit everyone.what

Intel Labs has an interest in this topic, too, and in reference to the “data economy” they assert that consumers should be able to capture more value from their data. A number of Intel researchers are involved in the We the Data project, and earlier this year Intel launched a “Data Economy Initiative” study to uncover ways that consumers can gain more benefits from their data.

UnboundID also believes this is a critical time for global citizens. The digital age has created so much data – one recent article proclaimed “…90% of the world's data has been produced in just the last two years”. That’s what Big Data means. While today this data is put to use for good and for evil, there’s so much more that could be done to harness its power. Plenty of companies like Facebook and Google are exploring ways to use data, but there are still plenty of questions to be answered – like who owns what data, what protocols will standardize data, or will a universal set of rules be created to protect data? So much remains uncertain, but we do know that data is tremendously powerful: decisions made now will have far-reaching impact, affecting how our world will look in the decades to come. The evolving controversies around ownership and the usage of personal data is a key to the future.

It’s a good thing that there are many voices encouraging others to join this conversation. It’s inspiring that there are so many intelligent people willing to roll up their sleeves to tackle these kinds of complex problems. At UnboundID, we believe we are part of this solution… and we’re not done yet.

Topics: Big Data , Privacy and Preference Management