A Note of Data Privacy

Like most researchers, data is essential to how we learn about people. We map semiotic data. We are data agnostic, which means we can leverage any data source with potential signifiers. Data source may be social media, notes, transcripts, image libraries, etc. By semiotic data, we mean the signs and symbols put out into the world (online and offline), knowingly or not, by human beings.

The data itself is new and technology driven. However, the process is not a new one. John B. Stetson revolutionized the 19th century millinery business by having his local sales reps go to the streets and sketch what they saw in terms of people wearing hats. Those trend reports became valuable information for understanding people’s needs.

Our purpose in mapping the data that we uncover online and offline is to see the systems that are evolving behind trends and help expose tensions and perceptions. We use a sophisticated method of patterning the data to lead to anthropological truths. This is linguistic analysis, as opposed to sentiment analysis. The process is inductive. Whereas design thinking lands on a new concept, culture mapping, as a semiotic thinking process, allows us to confidently infuse multiple forward-thinking scenarios.

Our approach to big data is to narrow down the pockets of information, analyzing layers of information thoughtfully and in aggregate to see where mindsets are and where they are not. We cross-correlate smaller data sets to arrive at complete pictures of what is happening trendwise. With well-scrubbed and parsed data, we can reveal human patterns of ideology and determine dynamic hypotheses.

When using pragmatics (linguistics in context and semiotics in context), it is not necessary to exploit individual data to gain an understanding of trends. And, in many ways, it would not make sense to. Ideally, concepts like chocolate (as a simple example) should span generations and reach a fundamental truth that belies them all. It is not necessary to be invasive to understand human beings. Most of what people want to say is plainly in front us to read.

The data we capture and use is naturally occurring and publicly available. We pull the essential data we need to capture linguistic signifiers, their context, timing and general location. In turn, we use the patterning of this data to develop archetypes and understand behavioral codes.

A visualization about culture should start a dialog. It should let us work forward and offer a systems’ view. Information is not supposed to soothe a client and confirm what they think they already know. Information should expand their world.

Research can be both effective and ethical.