Social Media

Open Data is Underrated: Hyper Island’s Creative Data lab

“Holy shit the Internet is amazing.”
– Daniel Beauchamp, Hyper Island Lecturer and Developer at Shopify

Have you heard about Swedish university Hyper Island? Since setting up its Singapore campus in 2011, Hyper Island has been running courses in digital media related fields that run from full five-day workshops to a Masters offering in Digital Media Management. In fact, I’m really interested in heading for a HI workshop, thanks to the great people at Syinc’s Under the Hood!

The guys at HI regularly host a free evening talk during their workshops, where their trainers (usually awesomely experienced practitioners) share their views on the topic of the week. This week was the creative data workshop and Daniel (@pushmatrix) and Edward (@edwardog) from Shopify shared their views on data, privacy, and cool shit.


Data, sweet data

There is a lot of data out there and it’s just getting even more massive by the minute; think 640TB data transferred, 100k tweets, 204 million e-mails sent – kind of massive, and that’s ‘old’ March 2013 stats.

“Data is boring and useless by itself. It’s only interesting what you do with it.”
– Edward Ocampo-Gooding, (also) Hyper Island Lecturer and Developer at Shopify

It’s been really encouraging to see an increasing number of companies, organizations, and even governments have been releasing data for use. For example, a couple of Singapore ministries contribute to a data portal for hundreds of datasets: Makers, hackers, and users are using the open data (data that is freely accessible and machine readable) to make sense of the numbers and build apps, with some amazing results.

Cool examples of brands/apps leveraging on big data: 

  1. Stumble Safely: App that allows users to locate the bars and stabbings in the area – for a safe night out.
  2. Goldcorp: Gold mining company that released its data and maps allowing users to locate new mining sites. Result: Goldcorp finds all the mines at 1/6th of the cost they usually do.
  3. Kaggle: Uses data for predictive analysis and a platform to host the data contests and sites.
  4. Sweet Music: Step sequencer is on a grid allowing you to toggle between different tunes.
  5. Ship Finder or Plane Finder: View all the ships moving around in the world; totally random, but hey.

But wait…

Frequent questions: How big is big data? Anything that can be hosted on a spreadsheet is not big data.

Data is anonymised – or is it? For niche searches or user behavior, it is very likely that we may be able to identify or trace users. For example, it is more likely that an obscure search such as ‘Ibrahim Iqbal’ would be Googling for their own search profile.

Three takeaway tips from Daniel and Edward at the end of the talk:

  1. Data is cool when you find a use for it.
  2. Learn to code: Javascript highly recommended.
  3. Go to hackfests or “Let’s make cool stuff party” to meet interesting people. Check out

In fact, learning to code is something that I’m really aiming to accomplish in 2014. If anyone is interested – please do hit me up.

View a list of Hyper Island’s labs if you are thinking of furthering your digital skills.


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