This is Halloween
Every October, I undertake a ritual to prepare for Halloween. No, I'm not referring to some pagan summoning ritual, or any other kind of occult activity. My ritual consists of watching a horror movie every night leading up to Halloween. It's a fun project every year, and it's one of the things I anticipate the most when the leaves begin to fall. I usually try to catch newer films that I might have missed, but every October, without fail, I make a point to watch Stanley Kubrick's The Shining. I believe The Shining is the single greatest horror movie ever made. That's not exactly a hot take, but still, I believe it to be true. I think The Shining is uniquely unable to be broken down fully, and that is what is so disturbing about it.
All Work and No Play
In case you've missed out on one of the most celebrated films of all time (you need to watch this movie), I'll give a brief synopsis. Danny Torrance lives with his mother Wendy and father Jack in Colorado. He begins having horrifying visions that he doesn't understand, but continues to live his life as normally as possible. Jack is a struggling writer, and reformed alcoholic who relocates the family to take a job as the winter caretaker of the massive, isolated Overlook Hotel. The family will have to stay for the entire winter alone. The job comes with more baggage than initially expected though, as the previous caretaker is revealed to have lost his mind over the winter, killing his family and himself. Over the course of the film, increasingly strange, inexplicable, haunting things begin to occur, and Jack slowly descends into madness. Danny is revealed to have the ability to "shine"-- essentially giving him telepathic powers. I won't spoil the ending, but if I were to briefly summarize the third act, I'd say that the past of the hotel plays a great role in haunting the present.
There are so many theories about the "true meaning" of The Shining-- so many that there is an entire documentary (the well-made Room 237) breaking down the different theories scholars of the film hold regarding what Kubrick truly meant in making the film. Perhaps it's an allegory about the decimation of the Native American population, or retelling of Theseus and the Minotaur, or maybe even a confession by Kubrick of faking the moon landing. The point is that the film is hard to decipher, and is consequently all the more scary because you just can't parse out what's wrong with it.
The unknown is a primal fear, which makes sense from an evolutionary perspective. Humans aren't the biggest, fastest, or strongest animals, which means that acute perception is necessary to survive. It's what made us the dominant species on earth. When something is unknown or unable to be perceived, it triggers a fear response, because it goes against our biological programming. This is why The Shining is so scary. It's unknown, and Kubrick leaves enough open to interpretation that you never quite feel like you've gotten the whole thing.
Debunking Dark Data Doubts
Okay... Why am I talking about The Shining on a blog for an information governance solution? Well, what's something scary in the field of data? If you answered dark data, congratulations, you're right on the mark. Dark data scares data processors and managers because they don't understand it. It's unknown. So, while we can't break down The Shining into something that isn't scary, we can certainly do that with dark data.
As we've written before, dark data is defined by Gartner as "the information assets organizations collect, process and store during regular business activities, but generally fail to use for other purposes." Put differently, it's the data you don't use. It's unstructured, and harder to understand than traditional series of 1's and 0's, which is why it largely goes unused. Data managers know they should be using that data, but don't know how, and consequently, dark data becomes a big, scary entity that comprises 80% of data while staying dormant. It's like the Overlook Hotel-- the mere presence of it gives off an aura of foreboding.
The Need for Innovation
Part of the path to dark data management will involve a degree of innovation. Falling back on old IT tricks, or waiting for the technology to arrive for you will not do. Instead, data managers and processors will need to be on the front lines of development, as both people and AI work together to extract usefulness from dark data. Your organization needs to incentivize further education in the field of dark data. It also needs to find a technology that helps your processors and managers out.
Dark data doesn't have to be scary. We can break it down into discernible parts; it'll just take time and action. Much like Danny Torrance's ability to "shine," dark data management is a special talent-- "I don't think you are aware how great it is." By educating ourselves and finding solutions that work with dark data, we can dispel the fear of it, and utilize it "forever and ever and ever."