I don’t go to CUNY nor am I an alumnus and no, I don’t know anyone who attends, but nevertheless, I’m thrilled that the school has announced that it will renovate its existing campus in New York City to establish a Center for Digital Scholarship and Data Visualization. Why? Because this move by a major educational institution is a great sign for all industries working in big data (today, that includes pretty much every industry including retail).

According to coverage of the news, the center will focus on surfacing insights from datasets that museums and other cultural institutions have provided. Many of these institutions have begun to experiment with ways of releasing images and other troves of information. Matthew K. Gold, associate professor of English and digital humanities, who spearheaded the grant application told Fast Co. Design, “Cultural institutions have data sets that present interesting challenges for the big data paradigm.” Through the new center, CUNY will collaborate with partners including the Museum of Modern Art, the New York Public Library, and the Brooklyn Historical Society to pull in new data feeds and provide employee training. “They have these amazing cultural riches, and they’re not doing much with it,” Gold added.

I’m excited about this initiative and the press it’s getting for two reasons:

  1. 1.The museums and cultural institutions that CUNY will be working with remind me of some of the retailers that I’ve spoken to in the past. They are sitting on their own data “riches” without even knowing it. While many understand the power of big data and the effect in-depth customer data can have on their bottom line, they assume they have to collect and analyze external data, when in fact this data is right at their fingertips. Others just have no idea how to put the data they have into action. The results of this project should help organizations across industries realize the power of the data they already have.

  1. 2.In addition, Gold told Fast Co. Design that he hopes to launch new data visualization degree programs “very soon,” with tracks for a range of student backgrounds. “It’s a multifaceted discipline that involves everything from data aesthetics to programming,” he says. “We’re moving as fast as possible to get things up and running.” As programs like CUNY’s grow in popularity, I hope to see a new crop of talented data scientists entering our workforce and taking the skills they’ve learned at CUNY to other industries, like retail. I’ve talked in length about the talent challenge data science is facing in my post, “The Talent Challenge: Marketing Science Scarcity.” I hope this initiative will spark interest in data science to help face this challenge.

While this particular project is completely focused on humanities, I have high hopes that it will bring more awareness to data science as a whole. And you can bet that as more of these initiatives pop up, every industry will benefit from them.