Data: Presentation Matters

screen-shot-2016-12-20-at-11-37-37-pm Data, more importantly big data has a way of feeling overwhelming and can seem like a daunting task.However with the huge surge of data being collected from various tech,  data analytics is becoming one of the fastest growing fields in the STEM fields. Data can be cumbersome and hard to analyze but with the right tools, it can be easily analyzed and provide us with a wealth of information. With this wealth information however, things can be misinterpreted or misconstrued.

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So what should you do? Well it is great thing to learn how to analyze data,  using at least basic spreadsheet software. Excel, Libre Office and Google Spreadsheets. These helpful tools allow us to analyze data in a matter of minutes vs days. The origins of the electronic spreadsheet is apparently part fictional tale, part awesome invention. However whatever it’s origins, it has helped accountants, entrepreneurs and soccer moms, analyze information in an efficient and effective manner.  With a couple of clicks, you an create functions and formulas, you can analyze data no matter how big.

 

For instance, the function  VLOOKUPS, Microsoft office states is similar to looking up a person’s name in a telephone book to get a telephone number. VLOOKUP looks at a value in one column, and finds its corresponding value on the same row in another column.

Along with VLOOKUPS,  Excel and software like it provide users the ability to create tables, charts, graphs and even cool pivot tables. Below I provided some screenshots of my pivot table along with some helpful directions here, here and here.

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Another great feature for data analyzation is conditional formatting. I’ve added icon sets to the following excel file as well.

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At the end of the day, tools like Excel and even Google sheets allow us to analyze big or little data sets, all the while making it look pretty.

 

 

 

 

 

A man walks into a pizzeria with an Assault Rifle: Or the beginning of a horrible joke

As you may have heard, a 28 year old man entered a Washington DC Pizzeria Comet Ping Pong, last week with an assault rifle. He then preceded to let out a warning round because of the now infamous Pizzagate conspiracy. Now how does this relate to Digital Literacy you may ask? I believe that a person’s who is digital literate is able to analyze the Pizzagate Like other fake and bias news of this era, Pizzagate has been shown to be based on loose threads and no solid foundation. However, as this week shows, fake news is on the rise and it has some real life consequences. There are various definitions of Digital Literacy but they all focus on how a person uses digital tools, socially engage and think critically of the world around them.

The ability to use digital technology, communication tools or networks to locate, evaluate, use and create information.¹
The ability to understand and use information in multiple formats from a wide range of sources when it is presented via computers. ²
A person’s ability to perform tasks effectively in a digital environment… Literacy includes the ability to read and interpret media, to reproduce data and images through digital manipulation, and to evaluate and apply new knowledge gained from digital environments. ³

~The University Library of The University of Illinois

Digital Literacy aims to help a person successfully communicate with the world around them by effectively using various technological tool. So  with the rise of fake news, it is very important that we are able to not only question but dissect  the information we are given.

For instance, a digital literate  person, no matter their political orientation, would apply some of the following before picking up a gun to “conduct their own investigation” of a local pizzeria.

  1. Locate and verify the news source. With the current digital age, it can be a simple /not so simple task to verify information if you do not where to look. However there are certain entities that willingly provide non biased information. For instance propublica.org or npr.org.
  2. The next step is, to expand your social media network. Social media sites like Facebook, have created a space that is specifically created to your wants, needs and likes. They are even offering companies an opportunity they allow them to exclude certain groups of people based on their race or specific likes. Which luckily they are working to end.This type of research although time consuming can be a safer and healthier way of researching information.
  3. The last step, is I feel the most important. To look at the information or data and think about it in a critical fashion. It is vital for us to analyze the information presented to us in order to make informed decisions as global digital citizen. The digital world is filled with information that can be fabricated from teenagers located in Eastern Europe, to writers in the US, looking to make some additional income.

So to answer this week’s question, digital Literacy is not only vital but necessary.

So, Where do you put your Ketchup?

 

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Per the article Silicon Valley struggles to hack its diversity problem, there are several reason for the lack of diversity within both the Technology and Engineering industries. One possible reason, is the possible lack of talent coming from higher education. Another reason, mentioned might due to the hiring criteria of specific companies. Both reasons although valid are being challenged with the recent initiatives federal regulations and public pressure. There is also mathematical data proving that an increase in diversity can lead to an increase of productive and success. But why and how?

Per the article What is Code?.there are various not for and for profit organizations leading the change to make a noticeable dent in the diversity pipeline issue. For instance, Google representatives are working with Historically Black Colleges & Universities with their Google In Residence (GIR). Also Etsy was able to raise their number of female engineers by 500%. While, other groups like Girls Develop ItBlack Girls Code  and Girls who Code aim to help close the gender gap in technology. While companies, like Kano, Scratch, Lego Mindstorms and Cubetto, aim to expose kids of all ages to develop an interest in coding and engineering through games and other kid friendly tools.

So it seems based on the Silicon Valley article, the bigger issue might lie with the companies as a whole. Recent  employee reports from the top technology firms, show huge gaps between white and asian male employees for tech and non tech positions versus their female and underrepresented minority counterparts. From Google to Facebook, the number of females and underrepresented minorities are below 10% to 5 % for each category. Let alone in positions of power.This disparity in hiring has been blamed on an unwillingness to lower the bar but per the article, this is no longer a valid excuse.

Adam Davidson, a cloumnist for the New York Times magazine provide another possibility. On a past Reply All podcast episode Raising the Bar,

Yes, diverse workforce, it’s a beautiful idea, and I’m all for it. But when it comes to Silicon Valley there are two big problems. First: we don’t have proof yet that it works because to prove it, you’d want to look at all of those diverse Silicon Valley companies. And, they don’t really exist.

Adam Davidson

So per Davidson, in order to show the value of diversity in the workforce, the workforce has to be diverse.

Although this is a simple point, it is hard to do because of some of the following somewhat faulty logic:

  • Homogenus groups are able to communicate better
  • Homogenus groups allow for upcoming startups to focus on raising revenue for investors
  • Homogenus groups have been proven to be successful

These reasons and possible countless others, are why some companies are hesitant from making a huge commitment of being the first company with great levels of diversity.

Although this fear is shared by some higher-up in tech, researchers like Scott Page begs to differ. Scott Page a professor of Complex Systems at the University of Michigan, by using mathematical models, found groups that were more diverse to actually increase productivity within an organization.In his books”Diversity and Complexity”  and ” The Difference: How the Power of Diversity Creates Better Groups, Firms, Schools, and Societies” he argues that diversity provides not only richer working environments but a strong foundation for any business.

Diversity can provide insurance, improve productivity, spur innovation, enhance robustness, produce collective knowledge,”
Scott E. PageDiversity and Complexity

“For each individual among the many has a share of excellence and practical wisdom, and when they meet together, just as they become in a manner one man, who has many feet, and hands, and senses, so too with regard to their character and thought. Hence the many are better judges than a single man of music and poetry, for some understand one part, and some another, and among them they understand the whole. (Aristotle, Politics, book 3, chapter 11)”
― Scott E. PageThe Difference: How the Power of Diversity Creates Better Groups, Firms, Schools, and Societies

 

So how does diversity relate to where you store your ketchup?  Well per Scott’s interview on Reply All’s Raising the Bar episode, it can lead to greater associations to solve hard problems.

 

GOLDMAN: Scott says that language, age, geography, personal hardship–they all inform how we solve problems in these crazy subtle ways. And he gave this example that I find totally mind-blowing. Where we keep our ketchup.

SCOTT: Now turns out if you’re British or if you’re African American from the South, not as a rule but generally speaking, you’re likely to keep your ketchup in the cupboard. If you’re not British and you’re not African American from the South, you tend to keep your ketchup in the fridge. And you could think “Vive le difference, who cares, right?” Well it actually does matter because suppose you run out of ketchup. If you’re out of ketchup and you’re a ketchup in the fridge person, what are you gonna use? Well you might use mayonnaise, you might use mustard because those are things you think of when what’s next to the ketchup. If, alternatively, you’re a ketchup in the cupboard person and you run out ketchup, what’s next to the ketchup in the cupboard? Well, malt vinegar.

GOLDMAN: So, the more diverse the backgrounds, the more associations you get, and the more paths towards solving a hard problem.

~Scott Page Interview with the Reply All cast for episode #52-Raising the Bar

 

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Where is The Electoral College?

A recent article about Senator Barbara Boxer (D.Calif.) discussed her plans to introduce new legislation that hopes to dismantle or abolish the electoral college . In the article, she states that her reasoning is due to her feelings that quotes a 2012 tweet from Donald Trump “The electoral college is a disaster for a democracy.” Which is quite interesting since although he won the electoral vote 290 to 232, Hillary Clinton has surpassed Donald by over a million popular votes and her lead is still growing. With the possible dismantling of the electoral college, I wanted to understand fully what it is and how it works.

While researching the electoral college, I found the following  definition of the Electoral college as well as a Data Visualization to explain how the Electoral College works.

Per the National Archives and Record Administration, The Electoral College is a process, not a place. The founding fathers established it in the Constitution as a compromise between election of the President by a vote in Congress and election of the President by a popular vote of qualified citizens.

~Source

The website was rich with information was honestly boring. I found myself lost and distracted try to understand the reasons behind the electoral college and its purpose.  Although I agree with Tufte, that critical information should not be minimized into bullets and phrases, the technical report can illicit boredom and lead to a person missing vital information because of the package it is presented in.

I think a happy medium would be something that combines the two, like a Technical Report along with an Infographic or a Data Visualization. With this, I found the following Data Visualization created by Cristina Rivera for Washington Post.  Her DataViz provides the reader/viewer a simplified version on the inner process of the Electoral College.

The following six images provide not only a written explanation of how the electoral college works but with fun and engaging visuals to support or expand on the written explanation. The visual is so simple and to the point. Readers are given the important information, to help avoid the feeling of being overwhelmed. Which is essential when explaining a process that can be quite daunting. So what are your thoughts on the slideshow below?

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To Open Source or not to Open Source?

After watching the TED Talk Embrace the Remix,  I googled the quote “Good Artists Borrow, Great Artists Steal”which was attributed to Picasso by Steve Jobs.However I found out that it is actually  misattributed or misquoted. In fact the  origins of this story mirror our conversation this week regarding creativity and the legalities of sharing such creativity.

Continue reading “To Open Source or not to Open Source?”

A Critical Analysis on Black Mirror

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Since students, teachers and citizens are being shaped directly and indirectly from our current media culture, it is imperative to dismantle and reconstruct our past approach to media literacy. It is now a requirement to have a certain level of literacy in media, in order to correctly process all the incoming information available at our fingertips.

For instance Kellner and Share 2007 article tackle the importance of media literacy instruction and the dangers

It is highly irresponsible in the face of saturation by the Internet and media culture to ignore these forms of socialization and education. Consequently, a critical reconstruction of education should produce pedagogies that provide media literacy and enable students, teachers, and citizens to discern the nature and effects of media culture. From this perspective, media culture is a form of pedagogy that teaches proper and improper behavior, gender roles, values, and knowledge of the world. Individuals are often not aware that they are being educated and positioned by media culture, as its pedagogy is frequently invisible and is absorbed unconsciously. This situation calls for critical approaches that make us aware of how media construct meanings, influence and educate audiences, and impose their messages and values. (Kellner D. & Share J. 2007)

This process of deconstruction can begin with Baker’s 5 key questions on how we can deconstruct media.

Per Baker, all citizens should view media though the following five lenses.

  1. Who created this message?
  2. What creative techniques are used to attract my attention?
  3. How might different people understand this message differently from me?
  4. What lifestyles, values, and points of view are represented in, or omitted from, this message?
  5. Why is this message being sent? Who benefits from its transmission?

These 5 questions allow us to examine media content from various sources in order to gain an understanding or a new perspective on a given topic.

For instance, The Charlie Brooker satire on technology Black Mirror, takes on technology in a new, dark but innovative way. (Who created this message.) For this discussion, I would like to focus on the episode called 15,000,000 Merits.

In 15 million merits, the audience is drawn into the story by the various technological advances in a Sim like universe. The protagonists live in a world where there are:  hand controlled tv rooms, people use gamification to earn  merits (dollars); real life avatars and other cool updates. The reality is painted as advanced but has a dark connotation as well. The creator also incorporated features from  real life version of “American Idol”. The audience is also brought into the fold by the multiple narratives. From the friendly apple girl to the boisterous bicycle rider. Each of the characters provide an interesting layer that makes the story very interesting.

Like with all types of media, people bring their own ideas and history. For instance, a person might have considered the story to revolve around love lost regarding the “first apple girl” and Bing. Others may have seen Bing’s donation as something that was unfair or self serving. Or his inability to speak up against the system before Abi’s decline as an issue. All in all, there is a general warning of what can happen if we focus too much on a game show reality, but each person can bring their own experience and biases as well.

All in all Black Mirror provided a satirical take on how we might interact with technology in our near or distant future. The 15 million merit episode provide a sad and possibly scary example with our obsession with making it big, reality and competition shows. At the end of the episode Bing was able to “escape” his previous merit based existence to one of  his own “choosing.” I wish there was a focus on the people who were deemed to “fat” to participate in the merit system and how we ended up to this reality. However it was just an hour episode.

I’m not really sure what is the moral for this modern day fable. I still wonder what is the underlining point but I guess it is what I take from it.

 

 

References:

Kellner, D., & Share, J. (2007). Critical media literacy, democracy, and the reconstruction of education. In D. Macedo & S.R. Steinberg (Eds.), Media literacy: A reader (pp. 3-23). New York: Peter Lang Publishing.