Places, perception, people and networks: What connects it all?

The world of social media is changing our sense of place, our perception of people and expanding the networks that connect us.

At the beginning of February, I had more than 1,426 connections on Linkedin, 726 Twitter followers (small compared to the 6.6 million some people and bots have) and 23 blogs published in 2016 and 4 in 2017. Around 2,000 customer views and 1,000 social shares in 2016, but all of this means nothing if we don’t teach others how to do the same. So I am very proud that my colleague Annu Singh got her first blog published this year with the help of Christine Neff, our editor, and myself. (A big well done to Annu, whom has also been nominated for the Women in IT Awards.)

These stats intimidate me, but they do not intimidate people like Annu; they inspire others. Alas they are only going to grow as we become even more connected in the digital world and as we teach other women to be comfortable with sharing their thoughts and views. It’s a chain reaction: Standout CSC women Sonia Eland and Heather Simpsion inspired me, and then I inspired others. It’s a chain reaction connected by people, networks and passion.

So what connects all of these connections?

The data that comes from our social activity.

Analyzing the data can provide much-needed insight for ourselves and our world. And when it comes to the data generated from these connections, our interpretation can best be handled through the six sense:

Hearing: If we read what we found within our data back to ourselves, how does it sound? Is it good? Is it bad? Does it sound balanced? Is it one sided? Does it sound complete or do we need to find more data to prove or disprove our theories?

Tasting: If we were to taste this data analysis, how would it taste? Good to some people and not so good to others? Sometimes data analysis may be more palatable to some people and a bit bitter for others.

Sight: Looking at the data in different visualizations can be fun. But how would your customers, users or business leaders interpret it? Would they like the same level of detail or a simpler presentation?

Smell: This is similar to the taste of an analysis. Sometimes, something might taste good but doesn’t smell quite right. Is something “off” with our analysis. Maybe the source is suspect; maybe it was misinterpreted?

Touch: How does the data feel to you? How does the data make you feel? Happy or sad? Excited or nervous? Disappointed or proud. Data can be used to evoke feelings in people. It can also make us look at subjects and topics from certain viewpoints if we are given a scenario or specific perspective.

Extra Sensory Perception: Sometimes data or information just jumps out at you for no particular reason and you have no idea why, until you dig a bit further and it becomes clear. Sometimes it can lead down a rabbit hole, similar to the one Alice in Wonderland, and sometimes it can open up a whole new world, like the train that leads to the wizarding world of Harry Potter.

Sometimes we have to let our minds go in order to understand the data and what we may find. In this instance, one person’s rubbish may be another person’s gold, especially since we all look at data a little differently based on our senses.

Data can help us all find a voice and understand what we care about. Data can help us find our values and sit comfortably in them. But it can also challenge our biases and better understand the biases of others.

With the rise of social media, our sense of place and purpose expands in drastic ways, and the data that comes from these connections can create real meaning for us. It gives us the tools and capability to listen and be aware of others, a valuable gift. And when people feel valued and listened to, the rest (including the data) will naturally follow.

Sarah James was ANZ lead for Authentic Leadership in DXC and an advocate for DXC’s Women in Leadership and STEM. Prior to leaving DXC in September 2017, Sarah founded the Empowering Future Leaders blog and was its primary author. With over 15 years of experience in the world of IT, Sarah’s specialty is spatial information and includes integration on projects as diverse as mapping volcanoes in Hawaii to delivering high-tech police vehicles.


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