Coming: The end of data literacy as we know it
Narrative Science plus Tableau is another signal of data literacy’s eventual irrelevance
It used to be that “big data” was a big deal. Then “big” faded as all data became big, which left just “data.” Now how much longer will we say “data”?
Such things as AI, augmented data, automated storytelling are removing the drudgery of data analysis and even the necessity for data literacy. A small step in that direction was announced just yesterday with Tableau’s announced integration of Narrative Science, an automated “storyteller.” Instead of supposed stories made of data charts, Narrative Science makes sentences describing the data.
“We realize that data needs to be readily accessible to everyone,” Tableau’s announcement1 reads, “but we don’t all consume data in the same way.” New and different paths make it accessible. Bravo, Tableau.
This marriage will “redefine the future of data and analytics,” says Tableau’s announcement. If they had left out the small hyperbole, that the coupling will redefine it singlehandedly, they would still be left with one of the rare grand pronouncements that was still mostly true: This will add new force to an inexorable trend that for years already has been magnified by Tableau’s visualization.
One of the mistakes we make in the information technology industry is to assume that data’s always recognized as data. But everyday life already teems with data that’s not seen as such. The data harvested by gadgets is now just part of life, systematically rolled up with all of life’s other staples. Sleep, food, and play are measured but presented as stories. “I lost five pounds,” “I slept badly,” “I walked four miles,” “My blood pressure has been low,” and so on.
An IDC study for Tableau finds that only 33% of employees are comfortable using data analytics to support their decisions.
That miserable portion of people who’re comfortable with data has been stagnant for at least the last 15 years. It’s not budging. But the gadgets, along with tools like Narrative Science and Tableau’s own “Ask Me,” have helped push business analytics further.
These tools aren’t perfect, and data literacy still has years of relevance remaining for everyday folks. But over time organizations will care less and less about data literacy. That will leave us with concern for business literacy or just traditional literacy.
Datadoodle, by Ted Cuzzillo, publishes every Tuesday and on most Wednesdays and Thursdays — offering a fresh point of view on the data analytics industry.