thick data
n. Data related to qualitative aspects of human experience and behavior, particularly when used as context for the analysis of a large data set.
The notion behind thick data is that you can't always depend on numerics and algorithms to summarize the 360-degree experience of a customer, or of any other human activity or relationship where unforeseeable factors can enter in.
—Mary Shacklett, “Thick data closes the gaps in big data analytics,” TechRepublic, January 06, 2015
Consider, for instance, that the term “thick data” is already giving “big data” a run for its money as a buzz phrase. Thick data is simply the idea that numbers alone aren’t enough. To really understand data, you often need to consider things like human emotion, which is rarely data-driven.
—Mike Cassidy, “Big data is yielding to thick data and that’s a good thing,” BloomReach, May 03, 2014
Lacking the conceptual words to quickly position the value of ethnographic work in the context of Big Data, I have begun, over the last year, to employ the term Thick Data (with a nod to Clifford Geertz!) to advocate for integrative approaches to research. Thick Data uncovers the meaning behind Big Data visualization and analysis.
—Tricia Wang, “Big Data Needs Thick Data,” Ethnography Matters, May 13, 2013
2013 (earliest)
Our industry is experiencing a shift in the way that information is being used to drive decisions. Some have referred to this shift as entering the era of big data. … Although most believe that this science is still in its infancy, our industry is likely behind other sectors including retail, manufacturing, and services. Yet it could be argued that the insurance and financial services industry was built on gathering rich, thick data, which has provided rich predictive analytics and strategic direction.
—Thomas Caraher, “KYC: Compliance or Marketing Practice,” LIMRA Regulatory Review, March 01, 2013
This term is a mashup of big data and thick description, an anthropological research methodology that documents not only human behavior, but also the context of that behavior.

A slightly earlier usage comes from a December 10, 2012 document titled Opportunities and Challenges for the Digital Researcher (PDF) where, in what is clearly a series of presentation slides, the bullet point "Big data vs thick data" appears. In a fine irony, it's impossible to say whether this is a proper citation without context.

This term appears in my most recent column for IEEE Spectrum.
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