Datafication (1)

A picture of Matthew Maury shared by Wikipedia.

A few weeks ago, a friend was asked to present about datafication in performance analysis. This set me off thinking about the processes I had heard about and seen.

I started off revisiting Viktor Mayer-Schonberger and Kenneth Cukier’s 2013 book Big data: A revolution that will transform how we live, work, and think (link). In it they discussed at length Matthew Maury‘s career in the U.S. Navy’s Depot of Charts and Instruments. In their words “He saw patterns everywhere”. They added (2013:75) “He had a number of ‘computers’ – the job title of those who calculated data. He aggregated data. He looked for patterns and more efficient routes and sea-lanes.”

I liked their consideration of data in the light of Matthew’s journey all those years ago. They noted:

  • He was among the first to realise that “there is a special value in a huge corpus of data that is lacking in smaller amounts – a core tenet of big data”.
  • Astounding that it was done with pencil and paper and highlights “the degree to which the use of data predates digitization”.
  • Data refers to “a description of something that allows it to be recorded, analyzed, and reorganized”.
  • To datafy a phenomenon is “to put it in a quantified format so that it can be tabulated and analyzed”.
  • We built the building blocks for datafication many centuries before the dawn of the digital age.
A picture of Henry Chadwick shared by Simon Eaves in 2017

I thought this account resonated powerfully with Simon Eaves’ accounts (2015, link; 2017a, link; 2017b, link) of Henry Chadwick (link) and baseball. Both are stories of digital pioneers. Simon notes that perhaps as early as 1858, Henry tried to record and analyse as “a first step towards a sport performance analysis to assess relative merits”.

I do think reading these authors about Matthew and Henry together gives real feel for what was occurring in the nineteenth century in the United States of America … at the dawn of what has been a remarkable process.

I hope to write more about this process and provide more background to datafication as the centuries pass by.

Photo Credits

Matthew Maury (Wikipedia, link)

Henry Chadwick (Simon Eaves, 2017b (link))

My Project

Back in June 2008, I started writing this WordPress blog (link). I had written on other blogs before and had first dipped my toes with Geocities in the late 1990s.

In 2008, I was emboldened by CCK08 (link) to explore thoughts openly about learning in a digital world. I had not considered that what I wrote would be of interest to any other reader. It was framed by the delight of thinking out loud.

This delight in thinking out loud led me to explore many ways to share openly through emerging cloud resources. Many of these accounts remain and include wikis, talks, slides, documents and data. I was even naive enough to start Facebook pages for some of my units.

Another preoccupation of mine has been the linking of ideas about learning, coaching and performing enriched by my formative experiences of social sciences, teacher education, human movement studies, performance analysis and analytics. This has led me to think deeply about how ideas are formed in social contexts. Many of my posts are about how performance analysts and their collaborators emerged at particular times and particular places and constructed knowledge.

My blog at Clyde Street continues to be my platform for this sharing. I hope to add many more posts to the 1800 produced already. My new guide is the R community that is providing exciting ways to share openly and my old guide, the ever inspiring, Stephen Downes (link).

It has been fascinating how this project has emerged and changed.

Photo Credit

Blue sky thinking (Keith Lyons, CC BY 4.0)


A view of Moscow

A couple of days ago, Maha Bali wrote about connecting virtually (link). I was very interested in the ways she explored personal and continuing learning in her post.

Part of her experience was ‘attending’ conferences through the presence of others. I see this as vital in a world where there are so many conferences with a variety of registration, travel and subsistence costs. Partnering someone remotely overcomes the difficulties of cost and distance.

It does nor replace attendance. I am mindful that many people gain immense satisfaction from being present and part of “the hallway and social conversation at the conference”.

However, connecting virtually does offer the possibility of connection in a different kind of way. It is an issue I have been thinking about a great deal.

This Summer, in July, I am facilitating an unmeeting and (un)hack in Moscow with Malte Siegle, Martin Lames and Alexander Danilov prior to the Symposium of the International Association of Computer Science in Sport (link). We have a tentative program to explore data from the 2018 FIFA World Cup Finals and prospecting to Qatar in 2022:

Saturday: 6 July

18:00 PM: Arrival, Registration and Brainstorming

Start of hacking, working and analysing.

Sunday: 7 July

09:00 AM: Morning coffee and recap of Saturday

09:30 AM: Networking and brainstorming

10:00 AM: Hacking, working and analysing

Noon: Lunch

13:00 PM: Hacking, working and analysing

16:00 PM: Break out session

17:00 PM: Elevator pitch presentations of ideas (3 slides, 3 minutes per group).

18:00 PM: Announcement of winners and on to the opening reception of IACCS conference.

This is a framework that we can adapt. Throughout the process, I have been aware that not everyone can attend. There are lots of other opportunities around the world including Seattle and Paris.

I am travelling from Australia to Moscow for the (un)meet and (un)hack. I do take Maha’s point strongly that those who are attending in person can partner with those not there. I wondered if we might connect in real or lapsed time through social media and online platforms. I am going to use Twitter (link), Mastodon (link) and GitHub (link) as part of my aim to connect. I will be using the hashtag #iacss19connect to support this remote sharing.

Photo Credit

Tom Grimbert (@tomgrimbert) on Unsplash