Zhen Zeng is a postgraduate student at King’s College London, studying Digital Culture and Society. Connect with her on LinkedIn.
As we have experienced a big wave of Big Data in digital age and the interplay between marketing and Big Data has been stronger than ever before. Will the decisions be made upon predictive data or just your business instincts? Are we really taking the human element totally out of the system and let it follow the trend? I am afraid it is not the case and here comes the sad story from “keep calm and rape…” on Amazon UK.
Internet giant Amazon has been blamed for promoting domestic violence T-shirt selling and anger has been spreading around on Twitter. Peter, an online writer even commented “Wonder if Amazon will allow my new T-Shirt design: “Keep Calm and Pay Your Corporation Tax”” to resonate Amazon’s being grilled at tax avoidance previously.
But is Amazon just dumb enough to ignore the offensive sales of supplier the Solid Gold Bomb company?
Not exactly! The fact is that the T-shirts don’t even exist before the purchase. It is automatically produced by a program that starts a sentence with the popular “keep calm and …” (based on “keep calm and carry on”-the World War II propaganda slogan).
There is a “geek” word for this process called “algorithm”, which is used frequently for understanding online consumer behavior and keeping up with the Big Data explosion. Obviously the clothes company is counting on it to hit up on the trend and make profits.Detailed explanation could be found here.
Isn’t that a great lesson for us, who are interested in Big Data and have been “marvelling at” what has been achieved with Big Data in some areas in recent years, such as the pubic sector in Europe, manufacturing and personal-location data globally according to a Big Data report from McKinsey.
However, apart from those overwhelmingly data-driven business cases, are we supposed to be critical of this cloud machine? Remember the story “How Target Figured Out A Teen Girl Was Pregnant Before Her Father Did”, there has been voice to doubt whether the behavior of company could be justified concerning the ethical issue.
It reminds me of what my lecturer told me, “Now we so many people engaged in technical side, and also people who work on users and consumers, but there are seldom people who work in-between, exploring the human element of technology”. Plus, Big Data has been associated with business model, analytical algorithm and marketing strategy in a very positive way, but the relevant issues such as ethical problem, privacy and security haven’t been deeply researched into. And I think it deserves greater attention both in business and academic field. Then, I am glad to be part of this journey, to study how technology interacts with human in both delighting and frustrating way.