Blog: So the Story Goes… Finding Meaning in a Data-Rich Age


In this modern age, there is more data and information being captured, collected and catalogued than ever before in the history of humankind.

Recently, the magazine Science Focus, reported:

“The sum total of data held by all the big online storage and service companies like Google, Amazon, Microsoft, and Facebook is enormous. Estimates are that the big four store at least 1,200 petabytes between them. That is 1.2 million terabytes (one terabyte is 1,000 gigabytes). This figure excludes other big providers like Dropbox, Barracuda, and SugarSync, to say nothing of massive servers in industry and academia.”

It’s almost unimaginable. Yet with so much information at our figure tips, I wonder how we make sense of it all. The sheer amount and volume of content makes you wonder how we could even begin to find meaning in this expanding collection of information.

Who are the storytellers and where are the stories that will bring this data to life?

Some people and many businesses have turned to content curation; using software and subject matter expertise to separate the wheat from the chaff. This is all done in an effort to sift through myriad data sources identifying relevant, useful information.

However, that is only addressing part of the growing problem. Curation may solve the issue of validating, verifying, and bringing the most useful information to the surface of the data pool. But, curation doesn’t deal with making sense of it all. We need more than just authentication and data analytics to internalize concepts, contemplate the application of new ideas and simply learn.

We need a strong narrative to wrap around the information, providing us with characters, context, and setting we require for gleaning the meaning for ourselves.

As human beings, we learn better and retain more when information comes to us through storytelling. It’s a scientific fact that we all find meaning when content is framed in the form of a well-crafted story.

In less than 20 years, we’ve gone from snail-pace, dial-up Internet to 4K videos seamlessly streaming to our 4G smartphones.

In a video series called “Data Never Sleeps,” infographics display how much digital data we create every minute. Since 2012, the internet has collected another 1.1 billion users, with an estimated 3.2 billion people now hooked up to the World Wide Web. Check it out here:

Every minute, there are an estimated 590,278 Tinder swipes, 694 Uber rides, and 4,166,667 Facebook likes.

It truly is mind-boggling.

The good news in all of this is that the stories are coming, even if it’s not at the same rate we are gathering data. They are taking the form of Vines, Snapchats, blogs, vlogs, and various other technology apps to frame our growing global narratives.

I have a feeling that as the printed world of storytelling shrinks and our data repositories grow, our digital age will continue to splinter with myriad storytelling engines, created by the ever-present need of humans, driven to make meaning of the world around them.

So the story goes…

Joseph F. Bastian, president of The Human Performance Network, is a regular contributor to and DBusiness Daily News.