16 March 2022

A decade after ‘data is the new soil’, it’s now the time for Blossom

When the Internet started, people were hard-set to provide a name for using the Internet. You have probably heard about "surfing / drowning / diving on the internet". Those three concepts referred to the capacity we had to explore and use the Internet. Each step forward on the Internet means being hit by tons of data; at that moment, we also start coining metaphors for data. 

Using metaphors provides an easy way to compare two concepts or objects, one abstract and complex, and the other familiar; they need to share some characteristics because the familiar concept will provide a way to understand the abstract. Nevertheless, the abstract concept will have many familiar representations hiding some attributes as it becomes more complex. 

When people started talking about Data is the new oil in 2006, they were referring to data as the source of a kind of energy that moves the world into a new area. And, if so, data also creates byproducts for those who work it, too. Those byproducts are often called New digital business models.
As a quintessence, the problem of defining your data as oil doesn't tell you anything about maintenance, re-usage, exploration, quality or storage. Or if the user is really creating new digital driven business models, it’s just a massive amount of data. Like oil.

Due to the lack of the concept of  the slogan “Data is the new oil”, one exciting approach appeared in 2010 [1] with the new slogan Data is the new soil. The slogan was presented by David McCandless Ted Talk about the data economy and industry, in which David said: 

Data is the new soil, because for me, it feels like a fertile, creative medium. Over the years, online, we've laid down a huge amount of information and data, and we irrigate it with networks and connectivity, and it's been worked and tilled by unpaid workers and governments.

The re-definition of the data economy as the new soil was sleeping under the always flowing information of the Internet for almost one decade; why did it not reach our ears then?. However, during the last decade, many other metaphors appeared, like "Data is new air", "Data is the new gold", "Data is the new ocean", and many others. We classify data as a natural resource, byproduct, industrial product, market, liquid, trendy or part of the body. Each of them has a particular meaning and is better than the other in some perspectives and worse in others.

With the more and more present data sovereignty concepts, data protection laws and new ways of capturing, generating, processing data; generating machine learning techniques like federated learning, many players will need to think about the path of manipulating the data. However, in the current status, coordination and communication across the actors will be possible when each member has the same abstract concept of the Data in their mind, living behind the metaphors and using just about mature concepts.

The metaphors are good as the first approach to help understanding the importance of data in the process to a data driven economy, and therefore society. However, we are a decade away from “Data is the new soil”, and it is time to switch our minds and stop searching for the fitting metaphor for data. Instead, we need to start to blossom a complete concept for the decentralization of data in the upcoming data world. 

What is you definition of data? Do we still need data metaphors? We, at Databloom, believe that one needs a data analytics framework where one can fit her own definition of data. The data analytics framework should be flexible enough to adapt to the application needs. This is our driving goal in our development of Blossom.


[1] https://archives.cjr.org/the_news_frontier/data_is_the_new_soil.php

[2] http://dismagazine.com/discussion/73298/sara-m-watson-metaphors-of-big-data/

[3] https://www.ted.com/talks/david_mccandless_the_beauty_of_data_visualization?language=en


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