Chris Corcoran is the deputy in the New York City Mayor's Office of Analytics. He makes an interesting observation upon which all of us who are trying to make big data work as a source of consumer insight should reflect.
If you looked at Foursquare data for New York City, and you looked at day-to-day operations of where Foursquare operates, you would assume everyone lives in Midtown - you would never see anything in the outer boroughs.
As we talk about crowdsourcing information, at least from the cities' perspective, we have to be cautious about the huge, silent majority of people who are not participating in all these platforms, and how we ensure we're using data to serve their needs.
We should always be concerned about selection bias, but in the excitement of having so much information from corporate databases and social media, we may be ignoring the ways in which that data can be skewed. But, the idea that "data activity" clusters in urban areas reflects another change in the consumer landscape that digital technology has brought. There was a time when new product development seemed to be targeted at suburban households -- minivans, microwave meals, and the like. From an insights perspective, it was in the suburbs that focus group facilities were located, the better to plumb the depths of the suburban experience.
However, the interaction of technology and "place" has changed the focus of new products and services. If you want to use your smartphone to order takeout from lots of restaurants, if you want to call a taxi with your smartphone, you need to live in an urban area. If you want to share a car or share a bike, you need to live in an urban area. Where will same day delivery of an order from Amazon succeed? In an urban core, at least at first.
So, it will be in the urban landscape that new and exciting technologies take advantage of the confluence of digital technology and consumer density. And, much more of our research will need to focus there.