“Data is the new oil." So said Clive Humby back in 2006.

"Data is the new soil" said David McCandless in 2010.

In between, in 2009, Meglena Kuneva, European Consumer Commissioner, said: "Personal data is the new oil of the internet and the new currency of the digital world."

I've long been excited about the advent of big data, and started posting about visualising the stuff back in 2008. If anything distinguishes the modern professional – in marketing, PR, HR, R&D, operations, etc. – from her predecessors, it's the facility to work with data.

I'm asked increasingly often to define big data, in particular how it differs from the normal sized stuff. The technical answer is simply when there's so much of it that traditional data storage and database technologies aren't up to the job. The more interesting answer is this: data helps us answer questions; big data also helps us conceive new questions.

The Intention Economy Last week I was invited to the book launch of In Data We Trust (haven't finished it yet), a best-seller last year in the German language. This afternoon I'm meeting up with Doc Searls, author of The Intention Economy (awesome), and thought leader on consumer / citizen data.

Last night I was invited to an event hosted by Gurbaksh Chahal, CEO of RadiumOne and one of those chaps who has difficultly maintaining eye contact during conversation lest he misses something on his smartphone. His company sells a "Dynamic Audience Platform" that "combines first-party social interaction data with our patent pending ShareGraph™ targeting technology and 12 billion daily real-time bidding ad impressions to deliver superior results for the world's leading advertisers."

Got that?

Big data is impacting every aspect of life I can think of. Some might ask "even art?" And I'd say, "of course art!" But perhaps the biggest question remains to be answered – who owns the data?

Does the supermarket own your product buying data, or is that yours? Does the utility company own your customer data, or is that yours? Does your mobile service operator own your location data, or is that yours? Does Google own your search history, or is that yours? Does Facebook own your social graph, or is that yours? Does RadiumOne own your ShareGraph, or is that yours?

Or are there new ownership models?