Data Democrazy

In the game of monopoly, the player that ends up owning the most houses win, stealing all of the opponents’ properties and leaving them in bankruptcy. The real life version is the same: the top dominant companies share the same sin: greed. In business, the main objective is to earn the most money, so it shouldn’t be a surprise when a business wants to be the biggest, wealthiest player by vacuuming the smaller companies and gaining the most profit. There is a large, growing danger that one day, if that day comes, the biggest monopoly crashes and leaves the entire economic market in footprints of dust. What will we do? What will we do when all of our information, fed through the algorithms to the big monopoly business’ selfish profit, is gone? I understand that it’s hard for multi-billion companies to want to control the metadata that makes them succeed in their business endeavours. In Joe Karaganis’ article, “The Piracy Wars are Over. Let’s Talk About Data Incumbency,” he shares that

 “The reason for this secrecy isn’t a mystery. It’s a big advantage to know more about your market than your competitors, users, customers, and—ultimately—regulators. Controlling this information raises barriers to competition and makes it easy for anyone sitting on the information-poor side of a negotiation to get taken advantage of without quite being able to say how.”

Essentially, big companies leave us in the dark. All they do is gain and all we do is lose our information to location services, customer surveys, liking things on Facebook, adding Amazon deals into our wish-lists, scrolling through infinite meme threads, etc. Karaganis continues that “in practice, almost all successful steps toward systemic data disclosure have been linked to regulatory pressure or fears of liability… it took a decade of escalating scandals and congressional threats to push Facebook into data-sharing arrangements with academics.” This left me wondering how much more would it take for the democratizing of metadata. Could there be a world where there are no gatekeepers and everything is an open-data agenda?

Bernard Marr in “What is Data Democratization? A Super Simple Explanation And The Key Pros And Cons” explains that the key benefit to data democratization is that “when you allow data access to any tier of your company, it empowers individuals at all levels of ownership and responsibility to use the data in their decision-making.” It could be a game-changer, where all parties within the economy can have equal use of consumers’ information. Can you imagine how the publishing industry would change if everyone had access to Amazon’s data? But I can’t imagine a world where Amazon would ever allow that. In the defeat of Amazon, could another Amazon reform?

I admire the idea of metadata democratization because it could create a fairer market. It could help smaller companies better understand the value gap within each market and the size and power of each market, specifically benefiting the creative markets. However, I’m not convinced that this is possible in our current market (or near future one?). If everyone has a seat at the table, then who is out competing for the food? I don’t believe that any business can survive without a competitor, even including non-profit companies. Competition is a useful tool in gaining new perspectives and growth. Competition allows brand authenticity and uniqueness. If everyone is the same, then why would a person choose one over the other? If there is no choice to be made, then there is no data, no business, no market, I don’t know what there is. I don’t believe we will reach a time where there isn’t a big scary, mysterious Amazon in the picture, but for right now, I believe we can keep the dialogue and discuss/ share new ideas on how to make the playing field a little more fair, but controlled. My idea is to steal a couple ‘get out of free cards’ and stash them in the bottom of the deck… what’s yours?

2 Replies to “Data Democrazy”

  1. I can see your Monopoly rage right now, Charlotte! Remind me never to play with you :) Thanks for taking the time to write on this topic as I know it wasn’t a very popular among the cohort. I love how you bring up democratizing metadata—do you think granting smaller companies access to data would be enough to spur change? Or do you think that smaller companies require more than equal access to begin with since they’re not starting out on a ‘level playing field’ (the old “to treat others equally, they must be treated unequally”)? I found your discussion of competition to be interesting as it takes a different approach to my own perspective, and I enjoy hearing other POVs. When it comes to competition in the market, do you think companies like Amazon have any, or does it occupy a monopoly share of the market?

  2. Nice title Charlotte! And much appreciated use if GIFs and memes. First of all, ugh Capitalism. But you touch on an interesting thought, what if the one big company fails, then what? I always envision a total takeover by Amazon, and their eternal success… but flipping the story is an interesting POV.

    Although, I still think that if all the data was open, if everyone knew what was going on and who was buying what there would still be competition… it would just move a lot faster. Also, I agree with you that businesses need competition to keep things interesting (and ever changing).

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