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MSLCE Students Learn to Use Big Data in Creative Industries

By Natalie Agbele

A group of MLSCE students were graced this quarter with having Agnes Horvat as their Culture and Art Analytics professor. I happened to be one of them.

Agnes Horvat, an Assistant Professor at Northwestern School of Communication, is a computer scientist who focuses on developing theories and methods for studying collective intelligence, crowdsourcing, and the creative industries. Many of us went into the class without knowing what to expect, but we came out with the necessary skills needed to analyze Big Data in the creative industries.

So what do I mean by Big data? As the name suggests, it is a huge amount of data that can be analyzed to reveal patterns, and trends. In the creative industries, people use these patterns to make predictions about box office revenue even before a movie’s release, or to determine the popularity of a certain topic on social media. The list of what one can do with big data is endless. We played around with Google Trends, Google Correlate, Ngrams, MusicLab, and Twitter trends.

One of the most interesting parts of the course was learning about networks and how every human is connected one way or the other, with the largest network being the World Wide Web (WWW). We used tools such as yEd and Gephi to develop a better understanding of how networks work.

Unfortunately, there is only so much one can predict from analyzing big data; in the creative industries, there is the “nobody knows” factor. A-listers in the arts, like producers/writers/artists, do not know if their product will be the next blockbuster or Internet sensation. For example, eight publishing houses initially refused to publish Harry Potter, yet it turned out to be the best-selling book series in history. “Gangnam Style” may not have been the most sophisticated music video, but it is one of the highest watched YouTube videos.

Overall, it was a great class. We all learned things that would be useful for our future career. Prof. Horvat did an excellent job in making the material practical and engaging.

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