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Big Data in Practice by Bernard Marr

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21 NARRATIVE SCIENCE How Big Data Is Used To Tell Stories

Background

As humans, we have always found stories a useful medium for passing on information. This includes truthful accounts meant to educate us, fictional stories meant to entertain us and the whole spectrum in between.

Narrative Science are a Chicago company which have taken up the challenge of automating that process using Big Data. They began by publishing automated reports of sports games for the Big 10 network and have evolved to produce business and financial news for international media organizations such as Forbes.

They do this through a process known as Natural Language Generation – using sophisticated machine-learning procedures to craft facts and figures from computer databases into stories that appear to have been written by humans.

What Problem Is Big Data Helping To Solve?

The human brain can easily overload itself on information and get lost in huge tables of charts and figures. A tragic example of this involves the 1986 Space Shuttle Challenger disaster. Mission controllers were passed an overwhelming amount of information from the technical staff monitoring the shuttle’s vital systems. Undoubtedly, hidden somewhere amongst that information would have been clues that could have told them the shuttle was going to explode. However, owing to their being buried in countless charts, diagrams and reams of printed figures, the warning signs weren’t spotted – with disastrous consequences.

In addition, sometimes ...

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