Review of ‘Big data’ by Brian Clegg. by wppalmer []
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Big Data How the Information Revolution Is Transforming Our Lives

by Brian Clegg

  eBook : Document

Review of ‘Big data’ by Brian Clegg.   (2019-09-01)

Very Good

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by wppalmer

Review of ‘Big data’ by Brian Clegg.

CITATION: Clegg, B. (2017). Big data: how the information revolution is transforming our lives. London: Icon books

REVIEWER Dr W. P. Palmer

This is a short (162 page), inexpensive, paperback book with a few black and white illustrations with a general non-technical approach. However, the author is extremely experienced at writing popular science works and he writes simply and effectively on the subject of the importance of ‘big data’ and how it effects our lives. Clegg provides illustrations of his main themes by providing examples based on his own experience. However, his themes are amazingly diverse including comments on UK politics, public lending rights, the history of computing, shopping, Mondex, the Starbucks ‘app’, Uber, airlines overbooking, Google, Kindle, fitness data, medicine, insurance, the Delphi principle, surveillance, CCTV, democracy etc. Clegg’s experience is UK based; I like his anecdotes and many of the stories he tells about using computers from the 1970s onwards parallel my own. Yet, I wonder whether Australian teenagers would find the text equally compelling. A teacher teaching a general ‘issues’ type course could pick sections of the book and relate those sections to student daily life.

I am a strong supporter of the Wikipedia approach to knowledge and Clegg is also impressed by the size and accuracy of Wikipedia. However, on p. 67, he has the story that he found on Wikipedia of a broncaurus [brontosaurus] on a UK farm living on a diet of hay, vodka martinis and flying saucers. This humorous insertion shows that incorrect data can be inserted in otherwise reliable sources.

In the end the book should certainly find a place in a school library, but perhaps it may even prove more useful.


See review in:

  Palmer, W. P. (2019). Review of 'Big Data: how the information revolution is transforming our lives' by Brian Clegg in Lab Talk , Volume 63, No. 3, p. 20.


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