March 27, 2017

FCAT is an Engaged Partner in KEY, SFU's Big Data Initiative


By Alisha Pillay

As a faculty that stands at the intersection of culture and technology, the Faculty of Communication, Art and Technology (FCAT) is an engaged partner in KEY, SFU’s Big Data Initiative. FCAT is known for consistently delivering cutting-edge research and pedagogy. The School of Communication was one of the first schools at Simon Fraser University to offer classes that include content on the internet, social media and big data. Peter Chow-White, professor and director of the School of Communication, is co-chair of the Big Data Initiative’s Academic Advisory Committee. Peter’s professional research examines developments in new information technologies such as data mining and social media, making him a natural fit for the role.

“It’s not often the university decides to pursue an initiative that’s exactly the work you do. I felt this is an important opportunity for FCAT to make sure we are involved, but also help shape this in a way that is distinctly SFU.” Peter explains that SFU’s critical approach to big data provides a unique advantage. “A lot of people are asking what big data is and what can be done with it. We ask the same questions, but we also try to understand the ethics and efficiencies behind it. How should we use big data? Who does it benefit? Who is left out of the benefits of big data? Is it beneficial to throw data at anything or do we have to be smart about how we use it?”

Helping spark these important conversations, while engaging people both within and outside the field, is SFU’s Big Data Hub that is now open to the community. Whether you are interested in learning a programming language to help with your own big data research, looking to sit in on a talk or just curious about big data in general, everyone is welcome. The Hub is more than just a center — it is a place that connects the community to all of the different parts of the University that are working in big data. “Not everyone knows that the library has programs on how to use R or NVivo – this is a connection the Hub can make for you,” says Peter.

SFU’s Big Data Hub is located on the third floor of the Applied Science Building at the Burnaby campus, and is open from Monday to Friday from 9:00 am until 4:00 pm.