Interview: Dr Anders Drachen, Professor At The University Of York.

'No single innovation has an impact on its own, rather it is the emergence of an ecosystem of technological breakthroughs combined with business models'


Ahead of the Big Data Innovation Summit in London this March, we had a quick chat with Dr Anders Drachen from the University of York.

Dr Drachen is a Professor at the Digital Creativity Labs with the university and a veteran of behavioral analytics and business intelligence in the Games Industry. With a background in industry and academia, he is the most published data scientist worldwide on game analytics and an editor of ground-breaking books that have become standard references. His research has won multiple awards and is covered by international media.

Fun fact: For reasons known only to them, sharks have tried eating him thrice.

What changes have you seen in how big data is viewed in society?

From the perspective of the interactive entertainment industry that I work in, the past decade has seen incredible innovations and the introduction of new technologies and business models at a rapid pace. For the whole creative industries ecosystem, big data has seen widespread adoption from customers to companies. Games are interesting in that we often have a high degree of interest in data from the end users. For example, in esports, performance data of professional teams, leagues and the individual player have a strong interest. I see this interest in engaging with big data becoming more mainstream and widespread through society.

Which emerging technology has the potential to change big data the most?

It is hard to pin down a specific technology as having the largest potential to impact big data as most technologies are heavily interwoven with others. For example, pointing to new distributed sensor systems comes interlaced with the technology to process the data from them. No single innovation has an impact on its own, rather it is the emergence of an ecosystem of technological breakthroughs combined with business models that permit us to take advantage of them, which has had and continues to have the potential to impact big data the most.

What are the main challenges that we currently face within data?

There are many challenges being faced across academia and industry in terms of taking advantage of the data flood-stream we are experiencing. If I should single out one corner of the data ecosystem, a central challenge we have is deepening business intelligence maturity across companies and organizations, enabling everyone to take advantage of data. This challenge is not only technological in nature but very much requires us to consider the human side of the equation. It remains one of the hardest problems to solve at scale towards building deep maturity across any data-informed sector.

And what can the audience expect to take away from your presentation in London?

The central point of my talk will be that when faced with overwhelming data about users, adopt the standpoint of condensing the data into a format where they are useful to you. Profiles is one such tool. This requires identifying the right data to work with and sacrificing detail, but can be a great way to enable taking action on user behavior. I will be presenting a number of small examples from digital games about how behavioral profiling is used and attempt to put different approaches into a coherent framework. 


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