Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Data Is Only Data

With my involvement in various company structures and management systems, I have seen the sheer volume of information gathering required for compliance to varying standards and legislation. Much of this data, particularly when gathered by government organisations, is released to the public in a barely presentable form. However, given the right amount of manipulation (from a presentation point of view of course) you can answer a few questions, or at least provide a little bit of perspective. But you have to be able to ask the right questions.....

As is par for the course, before a particular subject is to be raised for public debate, PR firms set about creating prejudice for a particular point of view. One way to succeed in winning over opinion, is to identify the antithesis to the morals held by the detractors of your cause, and paint that brush on the issue/entity/organisation that you wish to discredit.

This has been shown as a powerful tool in the Blue Eyes Brown Eyes experiment by Jane Elliot in the 70's.  
Though used as a mechanism to teach primary school children about racism, the premise works for any form of segregation and more importantly, demonisation.

In ye olden days before the interwebz, people were more easily influenced because the channels of information were far more restrictive. No Google. No Wikipedia (whom I do donate to whenever possible). Just your local member, the news paper and an Encyclopedia Britannica..... and of course, the shock jocks and wireless mouth pieces. (by the way kids, the wireless is the radio, not WiFi). Demonising only required the coercion of just a few key influencers. 

Now, there are any number of sources for "information". In particular, there are the bloggers whom have become the shock jocks of the 21st century. Arguably worse than shock jocks, if you search for a particular topic with prejudiced adjectives, you will end up with a whole bunch of blogger results that all agree with you, thus reinforcing your own position. 

This is despite the fact that you were searching BECAUSE you wanted to become more educated on a particular issue. Of course that isn't the fault of the blogger. It is just their opinion after all, but, it is a consequence of unintentionally prejudicial research and investigation. 

The point is, be aware that bloggers (and increasingly, lazy media centres) typically hang off information coming from major news outlets [often via press releases], and, comment on commentators opinions more than the actual issue. It is not very often that bloggers do particular investigations and in depth analysis, because the source of their popularity has a lot to do with talking about the right thing at the right time. 

I'm not trying to discredit all bloggers as PR regurgitators, but the reality is that the majority of the bloggosphere is now populated with advertising pages spraying Justin Bieber content in all directions. 

If you REALLY want to learn something, rather than just having your own opinion created for you/reinforced, get as close to the source as possible. Understand what the data is saying, and make your own analysis. 

The Clean Energy Regulator recently released Green House Gas Emissions for 2012-2013, via the Clean Energy Regulator website. The information was really quite interesting, particularly when it comes to recognising just how dirty manufacturing is as an industry. 

At least, that is how the Automotive industry was portrayed leading up to policy debate and the instigation of a productivity commission. An archaic and broken relic of the industrial revolution.

 How about I present to you with 6 companies, from different industries, in order of energy consumption for the period 2012-2013 [in Giga Joules GJ]. Highest consumers to lowest:

Commonwealth Bank of Australia, [1,627,533],
General Motors (Holden), [1,112,750],
 ALDI Foods PTY. LTD, [1,091,964],
Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), [667,806] 
News Australia Holdings PTY. LTD,  [512,456],
Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, [365,057]. 

Now how about you rearrange them in order of emissions vs. consumption. Who of these organisations emitts less tonnes of CO2 per GJ of energy consumed?

It's not really the sort of thing that you would know off the top of your head, and I certainly had the impression that an institution like RMIT or an organisation like the CSIRO would have developed a capacity for exceptional energy efficiency, particularly when compared to dirty olde car making. 

So here are those same organisations rated in order with the most energy efficient organisation first (with respect to carbon emissions), and, the organisation with the greatest amount of CO2 emitted per energy used, last. In parenthesis [ ], is the tonnes of CO2 emitted for each GigaJoule (GJ) of energy consumed:

General Motors (Holden), [0.1183t/GJ],
Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), [0.1856t/GJ], 
ALDI Foods PTY. LTD, [0.1969t/GJ],
News Australia Holdings PTY. LTD., [0.2163t/GJ],
Commonwealth Bank of Australia, [0.2192t/GJ],
Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, [0.2217t/GJ].

As you can see of the examples above, the Automotive manufacturer is the most efficient, emitting only 63% as much carbon as the Commonwealth Bank, per GigaJoule of energy consumed. In fact, out of the registered corporations contained in the Clean Energy Regulator's report, Holden didn't even fall in the top 200 emitters. 

For the record, here's how the other 2 manufacturers measured up:
Toyota Australia emitted 0.1490 tonnes per GJ of energy consumed and Ford Australia 0.2046 tonnes. 

So I ask you, where are the articles talking about the dirty olde education industry, or media industry? 

There aren't any, because data is only data until someone has a need for it, and a cause against which to paint it.  

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