Earlier today I noticed that Professor Lauren Klein linked to my simple “Texts From Hillary” data visualization which makes use of the New York Times API from her class website for “STUDIES IN COMMUNICATION AND CULTURE: DATA.” Here’s part of the class description:
Think of your SAT score, all of your Facebook friends, or even your DNA—we live in what’s been called the “age of data,” and yet, the concept of data has a long and complex history, one that dates back to the Enlightenment and arguably even before. This course will thus examine ideas about data—and in particular, ideas about data visualization—through examples of charts and tables, both historical and contemporary, as well as through literature, philosophy, film, and other media forms that engage the cultural and theoretical issues surrounding data, and related forms of visual display.
Sounds fascinating, doesn’t it?
D4R (Data For Radicals) is a very new project for me, so I haven’t gotten around to writing about the fact that I’m not sure that the use of data in the public sphere will be an unalloyed good for society, democracy, or individuals. Tom Slee’s essay, “Seeing Like a Geek,” had a big impact on me, in particular his contention that making data publicly accessible often leads to centralization of power. (Think for example, of how digitization of books has put many bookstores out of business while it drives Amazon to the pinnacle of the publishing industry).
I do remain inspired by the work of Salman Khan (of Khan Academy) and Brewster Kahle, of the Internet Archive. In particular, Kahle’s talk “Universal Access to All Human Knowledge,” given at the Long Now Foundation, was a huge inspiration for me to turn toward media and access work many years ago.
So if I was going to contribute a couple of readings to the class, they would be:
I raise a much larger question than I answer in this post, but I do intend to return to it — probably more than once! However, I’m about to leave for an art opening that I am very much looking forward to, so it will have to wait.