The National Security Agency says its massive new data center near Salt Lake City will enhance the agency's ability to analyze the email, text message, cellphone and landline metadata it collects. Rick Bowmer/AP hide caption

itoggle caption Rick Bowmer/AP

Value and meaning come from relationships and context. A physical object, such as a quarter, only holds the value we give it. It has no intrinsic worth. iStockphoto.com hide caption

itoggle caption iStockphoto.com

Big Data may not be much to look at, but it can be powerful stuff. For instance, this is what the new National Security Agency (NSA) data center in Bluffdale, Utah, looks like. George Frey/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption George Frey/Getty Images

Jonathan Bush, co-founder, athenahealth, at Health Datapalooza IV, where he urged the government to release more data on health care quality and costs. FotoBriceno for Health Data Consortium/Health Data Consortium hide caption

itoggle caption FotoBriceno for Health Data Consortium/Health Data Consortium

Information, like light, flows through cities in interesting, often beautiful, patterns. Valery Hache/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Valery Hache/AFP/Getty Images

Shwetak Patel (foreground), a MacArthur Fellow, recognized that every device in a home has a unique signature that can be used to track energy usage. The data collected by Patel's system showed that digital video recorders were responsible for 11 percent of this home's power use, just one example of The Human Face of Big Data. © Peter Menzel 2012/from The Human Face of Big Data hide caption

itoggle caption © Peter Menzel 2012/from The Human Face of Big Data