What photography can teach us about the digital world
‘Photography is the simultaneous recognition, in a fraction of a second, of the significance of an event as well as of a precise organisation of forms which give that event its proper expression.’
Photography was invented by some early nineteenth-century artists but was in 1888 when George Eastman introduced the hand-held Kodak camera, making photography easily done. “You press the button, we do the rest” its slogan rang. Photography impacted society being the world’s primary way of revealing itself to us. People started to capture everyday motion and seeing that each of us was a node in a vast constellation. Before ‘snapshooting’ reality was available trough artistic paintings. It was screened through old master’s eyes, techniques and humanity. Accurate brushstrokes gave away to physical points or pixels from a photograph. This physical leap led to an increase in the perception with which population got a close look at world, objects, communities and cultures.
‘The Decisive Moment’ was a term coined by the pioneer of street photography, Henri Cartier-Bresson. According him, it is a unique split-second in which events in the world — interactions between people, movement, light and form — combine in perfect visual harmony. Once it passes, it is gone forever. The best photo opportunities often flash before our eyes and we must be ready permanently to capture those moments. Cartier-Bresson summarizes the essential skills for capturing the decisive moment in two: knowing and intuiting. First requires conscious attention but the second not. Personally I found in the photography a very interesting analogy to explain how Big Data and Internet of Things are the catalyst for the Fourth Industrial Revolution and that actually is the beginning of a revolution. Big Data isn’t about statistics. It’s about capturing decisive moments, meaningful new insights that can boost our businesses. Big Data and digitalization technologies are revealing us the world as we’ve never seen before. The potential it offers is the ability to abstract from large sets of information unveiling something that we’re not expecting. Best data insights often flash before our eyes as the perfect photography. Digitalization represents a move to emphasize the value of the information, rather than the object it’s attached to. It’s like bringing the camera always with us, everywhere, capturing all instants around us to find these meaningful unique-split moments. Big Data is also a move away from try understanding why things really happen to learn see the world through the association between observable phenomena. Analytic technologies enables an entirely new approach for making sense of the world; rather than testing a theory by analyzing relevant data, new data analytics seek to gain insights directly ‘born from the data’.
‘A photograph is neither taken or seized by force. It offers itself up. It is the photo that takes you. One must not take photos’
Cartier defined himself as a street photographer. He was pioneer in what we call photojournalism. His snapshots were a new and powerful way of documenting the world. The most significant benefit of photojournalism was its ability to push for social change by illustrating the problems in the society. It was about capturing images to help telling stories. With Big Data technologies hundreds of different algorithms can be applied to a data set to determine the best explanation. Instead of writing stories with the available data these new technologies enable a new narrative from the emerging insights. It creates a radical shift in how we think about a problem and mostly in how we picture it.
Last Davos meeting’ attendants did not appear to have any doubts about the fact that Fourth Industrial Revolution is here to stay. According some experts we are living an explosion of technological innovation that nobody knows very well how to class. Hiroaki Nakanishi, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Hitachi conducted an issue briefing under the heading ‘Advancing towards a Super Smart Society’. He gave a personal definition about what was going on: Industry 4.0 is about adjusting our business models to a more customer oriented ones. He was talking about the opportunity we have to tell new substantial stories to our customers and get them involved into too. This is the path in witch companies can offer new services and get fringe benefits and therefore a threat to an irreversible change in how companies make money.
We could say that each traditional business line has a potential digital counterpart. Industrial groups are tackling a future where an estimated 30 billion devices will be Internet-connected by 2020 when IoT market is expected to reach USD 151.01 Billion at a CAGR of 8.03% between 2015 and 2020. Those components will produce exabytes of new data. The debate now is how to make money from selling this data. It’s about emphasizing the value of the information and creating a visual narrative from a new data language coming from these connections. Industrial digitalization wants to integrate different industrial processes by creating new information flows trough them. The intent is to connect for example, an industry supply chain management process with its maintenance operations in order to improve manufacturing — cut its costs and raise the productivity of its products and services. Processes don’t need to be complicated anymore — they should be distilled to open up new opportunities for consumers without being overly complex.
This article was originally published in Linkedin on February 5, 2016