The world of data is experiencing a seismic shift in 2016, spearheaded by a generation of passionate and tech savvy individuals, many of whom are part of the Millennial generation.
Having grown up with the web, millennials are used to having access to all the information they want with just a simple finger tap on a screen. As millennials enter the workforce, they are bringing these expectations into the office, behaving less as data consumers and much more as information activists. These workers expect to be able to use data actively to express their views and individuality.
As data visualization tools are often free to download and user-friendly, more and more people are able to createself-service visualizations, allowing them to express their interests and discoveries through graphs and charts. This generation of data activists is creating visual representations to tell its stories with widely available data from a variety of sources, from sports scores to music charts at home to big and small data at work. Data, increasingly, is becoming a form of self-expression, both personally and within the enterprise.
The information activism trend draws parallels to the printed word. From the invention of the Gutenberg printing press until the advent of the Internet, the ability to write and publish information was a highly technical skill, in the hands of a select few individuals. The arrival of blogging made the written word a mass activity, open to all. Similarly, people are now eager to express themselves using data visualization to tell engaging and visually stimulating stories without the need for a graphic artist or cartographer. They can just do it for themselves.
Healthcare is a perfect example of how individuals are transforming how data is being used. By taking hold of and analyzing the “data of me,” information activists are altering how they view and understand their own heath, and often taking action to change unhealthy habits. The widespread adoption of this behavior has the potential to change every facet of healthcare, from individual well-being to insurance practices. This marriage of data visualization and information activism is being fueled by data from wearable sensor technology. As we have seen the widespread adoption of FitBits, Apple Watches, and other devices, the average data consumer is increasingly acting on personal health data from these devices. Information activists are even banding together in virtual communities of likeminded people to share, learn from and, ultimately, act on the insights from their joint data to achieve citizen-driven data insights and implement change.
As an inevitable extension of the wearable devices trend, health insurance companies are beginning to act on the plethora of new information coming from FitBits and similar devices.