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What is ‘Big Data’ Anyway?

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By: Diego Bustamante and William-Elijah Clark

Maybe you’re on Twitter one day and search ‘#Statistics’ to look up some information for your Introductory Statistics course. Before you know it, you scroll through and see several tweets that are also marked with ‘#BigData’, and you’re left with more questions than you had when you started your search. Maybe you try to search for “big data” on Google, see the definition from Oxford, and are then left with even more questions: 

  • How large is “extremely large?”
  • What kind of patterns, trends, and interactions are we talking about?
  • What isn’t big data?

Big data as a term has become synonymous with the growth of digital data and the glut of information available to researchers and the public. Furthermore, there is a growing interest by both the public and private sector in utilizing large datasets to provide insight into market trends and to improve decision making. However, the exact definition of big data is sometimes unclear and can vary widely depending on who you ask. Businesses, nonprofit organizations, government agencies, and academic researchers each view big data in a different context and with different goals for its use. (University of Wisconsin Data Science, n.d.)

a Google Trends graph that shows the number of searches for the term “Big Data” from 2007 to 2017

Above: a Google Trends graph that shows the number of searches for the term “Big Data” from 2007 to 2017

In this blog post, we aim to provide clarity and insight into the origins and definitions of big data.  We will also discuss the potential benefits and challenges surrounding big data. In doing so, we will provide some examples linking big data to applications or data that you may interact with on a daily basis.

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Popular Literature: Tattoo Tuesdays, September 2021

Scroll to peruse all Tattoo Tuesday book recommendations posted in the month of September, 2021.

Our second September pick is The Happiness Project: Or Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean my Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle and Generally Have More Fun. Phew, that’s a lot but luckily for you, you don’t have to do a lot to have fun! Gretchen Rubin takes you along for the ride of a lifetime as she chronicles her year long adventure for the quest to find happiness. Have Fun! We hope you enjoy our selection; you can find it in the Pop Lit Fiction section just outside the Starbucks area on the first floor of Strozier, or in our online catalog at https://fsu.catalog.fcla.edu/permalink.jsp?23FS025555312

You don’t have to wait until Halloween to get spooky. This week we have a tattoo inked at a Friday the 13th flash sale. In honor of that unlucky day, we’re bringing you a pop lit novel from our horror genre. Our recommendation for this week’s tattoo is Kill Creek by Scott Thomas, published in 2017. Who better to put the nail in your coffin tattoo than “master of the macabre,” main character and best-selling horror writer, Sam McGarver? Follow him and three other genre writers as they try to survive a harrowing Halloween at the Finch House, one of the most haunted houses in the country. It’s been abandoned – until now. When Sam and his genre-savvy compatriots awaken the entity that haunts it, they can either outsmart horror itself or become part of it. Kill Creek was chosen for the ALA’s Horror Book of 2017, and was shortlisted for the Bram Stoker Award. We hope you enjoy our selection; you can find it in the Pop Lit Fiction section just outside the Starbucks area on the first floor of Strozier, or in our online catalog at https://fsu.catalog.fcla.edu/permalink.jsp?23FS03597741.

Popular Literature: Tattoo Tuesdays

The Popular Literature Committee – responsible for the Popular Literature section in Strozier Library – is bringing book recommendations from our shelves to your screens every Tuesday. Although we’re marketing it as a “Tattoo Tuesday,” if you yourself are lacking in the tattoo area, you can always feel free to submit your favorite: movie, song, activity, Starbucks order, et cetera. The way it works is: You email your tattoo (or other submission) to Lib-PopLit@fsu.edu and we choose a book out of our curated Popular Literature collection we think you might enjoy based on our interpretation of your submission.

Below are our tattoo submissions and recommendations to date.

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Memorial Day: Forgotten History and Modern Monuments

Memorial Day has a long history in the United States, longer even than many people know. In 2001, Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory, a book written by Pulitzer Prize winner David Blight, brought to light the long ignored influence the Black community had on the origins of this holiday and a 2020 article by Time continued to highlight this section of history. This article and Blight’s book place the beginnings of Memorial Day in Charleston, South Carolina in May of 1865. During the Civil War, over 250 Union prisoners died in captivity during the last year of the war, and all of them were buried in unmarked graves. After the conflict, Black residents of Charleston decided to give these war heroes a proper burial.

According to the Time article’s description, “approximately 10 days leading up to the event, roughly two dozen African American Charlestonians reorganized the graves into rows and built a 10-foot-tall white fence around them. An archway overhead spelled out “Martyrs of the Race Course” in black letters.” This grave and the massive ceremony and celebration that followed its completion were the first organized remembrance of those who fought and died for America. In his book, Blight said, “The war was over, and Memorial Day had been founded by African Americans in a ritual of remembrance and consecration.”

This was originally known as Decoration Day and originated following the American Civil War as a way to memorialize the soldiers who fell in battle. According to history.com “in 1968 Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, which established Memorial Day as the last Monday in May in order to create a three-day weekend for federal employees; the change went into effect in 1971. The same law also declared Memorial Day a federal holiday” So, while the name of the holiday changed and so did its status as a nationally recognized holiday, the tradition of honoring fallen soldiers has remained the same. 1 

Today, even if you can’t participate in a Memorial Day celebration in your community, FSU Libraries have put together a digital tour of several national monuments.


If you encounter an error with the embedded tour above, or if it fails to load, you may view the VR series here.

Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

The creation of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier came as a way to memorialize soldiers whose remains weren’t able to be properly identified after World War I. 

“In December 1920, New York Congressman and World War I veteran Hamilton Fish Jr. proposed legislation that provided for the interment of one unknown American soldier at a special tomb to be built in Arlington National Cemetery.” 

This tradition of memorializing one unknown soldier that fell in war as a memorial for all the other unknown soldiers was upheld for World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. 

But the tomb dedicated to the Unknown Soldier for the Vietnam War is currently vacant. There were remains there for almost 14 years but eventually it was discovered that the remains belonged to “Air Force 1st Lt. Michael Joseph Blassie, a pilot who had been shot down in 1972.” His remains were the only ones that were recovered and unidentified at the time which is the reason for the tomb’s vacancy. But, “On September 17, 1999 — National POW/MIA Recognition Day — it was rededicated to honor all missing U.S. service members from the Vietnam War.” 2

National World War II Memorial

“The National World War II Memorial honors the 16 million people who served as part of the American armed forces during World War II, including more than 400,000 who gave the ultimate sacrifice for their country.” 3 

“President Clinton signed Public Law 103-32 on May 25, 1993, authorizing the American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) to establish a World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C., or its environs. It is the first national memorial dedicated to all who served during World War II and acknowledging the commitment and achievement of the entire nation.” 4 

The design of the memorial was created by Friedrich St.Florian and it was selected from a national contest that included over 400 entries and his design won him the spot as the Design Architect. 5

JFK Gravesite at Arlington

Former President John F. Kennedy’s first visit to the Arlington National Cemetery was on Veterans Day on November 11, 1961 where he placed a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and gave a speech to 5,000 people at the Memorial Amphitheatre. 

Surprisingly enough, JFK is actually one of only two presidents buried at Arlington and it was a common belief that he would be buried in Massachusetts as that was his native state and it was extremely rare for the president to be buried outside their native state. But, “First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy wanted her husband’s gravesite to be accessible to the American public” and consulted with both JFK’s brother and Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara about the best location. It was settled that Arlington would be the best fit. 6

Vietnam Women’s Memorial

“For the first time in America’s history, a memorial that honors women’s patriotic service was dedicated in the nation’s capital, placed beside their brother soldiers on the hallowed grounds of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, DC. It was the first tangible symbol of honor for American women. The multi-figure bronze monument is designed by New Mexico sculptor, Glenna Goodacre. It is a sculpture in the round portraying three Vietnam-era women, one of whom is caring for a wounded male soldier, stands 6’8″ tall and weighs one ton.”

According to vietnamwomensmemorial.org, A three-day Celebration of Patriotism and Courage, November 10-12, 1993, in Washington, D.C. highlighted the dedication of the Vietnam Women’s Memorial on November 11, 1993 near the Wall of names and the statue of the three serviceman at the site of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Thousands of Vietnam veterans, their families and friends joined the nation in honoring these brave and compassionate women.” 7


Want to visit a memorial in person? Here are some you can find in Florida:

FSU Libraries Services Updates

As FSU kicks off summer sessions, FSU Libraries continue to update resources and services available to the campus community.

Here are a few notable updates: 

  • The stacks are open! Access to our physical collections in Strozier, Dirac, and the FAMU-FSU Engineering Library has resumed. 
  • Curbside and in-library pick-up services will also continue. 
  • HathiTrust Digital Library Emergency Temporary Access Service (ETAS) has ended. Click here to learn more. However, our extensive online resources are always available both on- and off-campus.
  • UBorrow has been suspended until mid-July due to the state-wide discovery system migration. To learn more about this upgrade and what it means for you, visit https://www.lib.fsu.edu/catalog-and-discovery-upgrades.
  • Interlibrary Loan (ILL) services for both electronic and print resources have resumed. However, there may be fulfillment delays due to library closures nationwide. Please contact lib-borrowing@fsu.edu with any questions.
  • Physical Course Reserves remain suspended until further notice. We anticipate offering physical reserves in the fall if quarantining returned print materials is no longer a necessity.
  • For updates on Special Collections & Archives, click here.

For the most update to date information, visit https://www.lib.fsu.edu/news/covid-19

My Experience as a STEM Research Data Services Assistant

By: Paxton Welton

Welcome to the third post in the Get Data Lit! blog series. This post will focus on my experience working as a STEM Research Data Services Associate with FSU Libraries during the 2020-2021 school year. In this role, I assisted with outreach and education to FSU students, groups, and organizations at Florida State University around STEM research data services. 

My name is Paxton Welton and I will be graduating with a bachelor’s degree in Finance this semester. One question that you might have right from the start-why is a finance major working in a STEM-focused role? 

When applying for jobs prior to this academic year, I knew I wanted a role that would challenge me and allow me to develop new skills. I believed that being the Research Data Services Assistant would provide me the appropriate level of challenge and opportunity that I was looking for. By and large, I believe that my experience provided me with just that. There was a major learning curve that I faced when I first started this role. While I had a grasp of the basics of data literacy and research data services, I quickly realized I did not know nearly enough to be able to properly speak to student groups about these topics. During the first few weeks of the fall semester, I spent a significant portion of my time getting a stronger understanding of data and everything FSU STEM Libraries had to offer to its students in regards to research data. By reading countless articles about data literacy and engaging in weekly discussions with my supervisor Dr. Nick Ruhs, the STEM Data & Research Librarian, I became confident in my working knowledge on these topics. 

As the STEM Research Data Services Assistant, one of my main responsibilities was conducting targeted outreach to different student organizations across campus. When I first started this process I reached out specifically to STEM-focused groups. This process involved me initiating conversations via email with registered student organizations (RSOs) to introduce them  to the research data services FSU Libraries offers them.  In several cases, we were invited to meet and/or present synchronously to these groups. This gave us a chance to share more in-depth information about our services and just how valuable they are to students. It also gave students a chance to ask us any questions they may have. Getting the chance to directly interact with students and help them find the right resources to feel more prepared for their future was by far my favorite part of this role.

I also had the opportunity to contribute to data-related events hosted by FSU STEM Libraries. Two examples include Love Data Week in February and the Virtual FSU Libraries Data Services Quest in March. My involvement in these events allowed me to see the entire process of creating programming for students. I was able to sit in on brainstorming meetings, give my input on the marketing materials, and create content for the events.

One of my main focuses throughout this year has been to develop and create this blog series you are reading right now–Get Data Lit! The focus of this blog series was data literacy and its applicability to student’s educational experiences. As such, I had the chance to put into practice the new data literacy skills I learned in this role. I also had the opportunity to connect data literacy to real-world practice and explain the importance of critically evaluating data. Doing so made me realize just how important learning data skills are for my future career and education.

One thing that proved to be a common theme throughout all the work I was doing is that data is powerful and knowing how to work with it is even more powerful. From a career in law to a career in fashion, you are going to be working with data in some form. Learning how to critically evaluate data is going to give you the skills you need to stand out in the future. 

By taking on a job in a discipline that I knew very little about, I was able to challenge myself and make the most out of this past year. From getting to work on student programming events to developing a blog series, I was constantly challenged and learning something new.