A review of the Science Museum’s latest exhibition ‘Our Lives in Data’
By Megin Gauntlett, Insight Executive
Being part of the *multiply team at Posterscope, we are more than comfortable with data as valuable currency. We pride ourselves on using the best, proprietary approaches to data in order to understand consumers better. This understanding in turn enables us to deliver the most targeted messaging, in the right moment and in the right location.
But what is the viewpoint of the consumer? How much do they actually know about the capture and use of their data? And when put in the consumer’s shoes, would you still think that the scores, reams and mountains of data collected and cleaned regarding your life is interesting or invasive? We can sometimes think about consumers as though they are different and separate to us and we must be careful that we don’t create a practice of dehumanising data.
We wanted to go to the Science Museum’s current exhibition, Our Lives in Data, to see their approach to education around data’s usage and how children, in particular, are shaping their views in a personalised, but essentially trackable, life.
Our Lives in Data was made up of four different sections; transport and smart cities, the IoT, genomic and social. The first and last are areas in which Posterscope have a large amount of experience. We use transport data every day in our work as Location Experts, defining how audiences move around the city in order to better understand how to reach them in the most relevant ways. We regularly use social data in our planning tools to see what is resonating for consumers, how they feel about brands and lifestyles and what they are gravitating towards in terms of behaviours.
The exhibition was set up as a blend of static exhibitions and interactive experiences. In the transport section, there was a data visualisation of Bond St Station showcasing how new tube stations and transit hubs are designed using predictive consumer data – knowing how people move through the station and streets surrounding it to enable city planners to create better, frictionless travel. This was interesting given Posterscope’s new partnership with Digit Group in the smart cities space. Using data to understand a location better and predict behaviours from a design perspective is only a decade or so old. But now, with connected payments, mobile signal data and the like, we can make the city work harder for its inhabitants.
Moving through into the IoT section, we saw connected toys showcased with variant degrees of consumer uptake – we have all heard the story of the doll that learned to speak not so kid-friendly words. This section also featured a type of paint that could be used on routers to block Wi-Fi signal pickups from external users. Considering Wi-Fi signals is a key method of understanding a location’s footfall at present, this paint was a surprise to some in the group. The exhibition also discussed whether consumers have been educated enough on the options available to them in this area when it comes to privacy of signals themselves (regardless of the fact the data collected is not being used to see individual information).
We then saw how genomic experts were using VR headsets to navigate their way through huge amounts of genetic data to better treat patients, even before they are sick. The exhibition talked around how the technology which began as a platform for better gaming has actually had a remarkable effect on how doctors and scientists can view microscopic and subatomic worlds. Given the complexity of educating children in genomic data, this area of the exhibition remained top line but it was a great way to show how a familiar technology like VR can be used to solve complex human issues.
Finally, we moved on to the social data area of the exhibition, with some very interesting facts for children and adults alike. For example, they shared that ‘Facebook users have four times the audience online than they estimate’ and that ‘within two weeks, 71% of people self-censor their own Facebook posts’. These statistics were interesting from a consumer perspective – we all know we self-edit but the fact it was post-rationalised editing showed how consumers are highly conscious about the image (and data) that they share with their ‘friends.’ The exhibition referred to ‘personality data’ or what we would call consumer trends.
There was an interactive element which replicated a basic planning tool – you could select which brands you like, and to what scale, and the tool would punch out a more personalised ad for you at the end. This is of course extremely pertinent to our world of dynamic adverts where Posterscope delivers relevant advertising content against specific audiences and mind-sets. It was surprising and exciting to see how the world of dynamic advertising was shown to kids and visitors, creating a positive connection and awareness around why ads were personalised to them.
Finally there was a video debate from the Policy Director of Facebook and Dr David Stillwell and he is a lecturer in Big Data Analytics at Cambridge University discussing data privacy and the future. Their conclusion was that consumers are demanding a personalised world with both brands and platforms understanding them and creating experiences with their individual preferences in mind. However, proceeding with caution was the message of the day – safe handling of data is the top priority.
In conclusion, visiting Our Lives in Data wasn’t about learning new data-trends, it was about understanding how the increasingly complex area of our business and the world going forward is being communicated to the younger generation. Brad Gilbert from the *multiply team said “the exhibition’s content may not have been new for us but it’s interesting to see an exhibition that explains simply to the public their data is captured and used. People are becoming more informed and empowered about the handling of their data, and it was important for us to see how this exhibition presented this to the public.’
Our Lives in Data captured the key areas of data in our daily lives, but it also enabled visitors to think about what would be missing in a world without data and the see-saw we all balance to improve our daily lives vs living an Orwellian existence. Given all the debate on this in our industry, it is important for us to remember that not all consumers are data experts but that we are all consumers.
Our Lives in Data is open until 01/09/2017 and you can find out more about the exhibition here.