Public Participation in Developing a Common Framework for the Assessment and Management of Sustainable Innovation

Big Data, Public Participation, Sustainable Innovation and the Pullip Doll

Big Data, Public Participation, Sustainable Innovation and the Pullip Doll
16.11.2015 | Petteri Repo

Big data involves enormous, highly complex and unstructured data sets. It tracks activities and collects logs, often in real time. So when you change from one television channel to another, your activity may be saved on a server and potentially be combined with equally minute activities from others.

Are you then participating in public discourse and for the common good? Perhaps you are more than you think.

Big data bears great promises for sustainable innovation as it brings together people in completely new ways. No longer will you need to be active, form opinions on complex and distant issues, and communicate them to policy makers. Companies - often big ones - will do this for you.

Today big data relates to online marketing, but tomorrow it could optimize your energy consumption, reduce the amount of waste you produce and maybe, just maybe, even make living on this planet sustainable. That would constitute a very sound sustainable innovation policy.

Does this sound both liberating and frightening? Perhaps so, but it surely is apt to bring new opportunities for sustainable innovation. The catch is that we need new ways to approach people. It is not only about people's data, it's also about their competences, aspirations and communities.

Take the Pullip doll as an example. Pullips are collectable fashion dolls which are popular amongst teenage girls all over the world. If you've never heard of Pullips, Wikipedia provides you a quick overview of the doll and the Pullip phenomenon.

The Pullip community is renown for publishing creative and stylish pictures of dolls in social media. To better understand the community and what it does, we need to take into account what its members aspire and how. While the community portrays their dolls as sweet as can be, there is also a great mixture of competences involved: fashion and outdoors photography, customization of dolls, graphic design, computer skills, and social skills, just to name a few.

So when you next time plan to use Big Data for sustainable innovation, think about the aspirations and competences of the Pullip doll community. This might help you make your start up a ”unicorn”, i.e. reach a one billion dollar valuation. Sustainable innovation means big business when it embraces public participation well.

Relevant themes: Climate action, Environment, Resource efficiency, Raw materials, Sustainable innovation, Public participation
Relevant tags: aspiration, competences, big data, logs, real time, opportunities, people, community, doll, Pullip, fashion, social media, innovation policy, big business, unicorn, Social innovation, Technological innovation, Sustainability, Eco-innovation, Unicorn


  • Petteri Repo - Consumer Society Research Centre at the University of Helsinki

    Petteri Repo