“In mathematics and computer science, an algorithm ( i/ˈælɡərɪðəm/ AL-gə-ri-dhəm) is a self-contained step-by-step set of operations to be performed. Algorithms exist that perform calculation, data processing, and automated reasoning.”
More than ever, Algorithms are used to screen people for employment, to determine credit scores, to inform prison sentencing, and many other functions which shape peoples’ lives in important ways. But the assumptions and decisions which go into creating the algorithms can create outcomes that are not always in line with values like fairness, social mobility, racial impartiality, and so on. It’s important to not accept algorithms as a kind of truth machine, but rather to foster discussion about how to best use and shape algorithms to create the kind of outcomes that foster the kind of outcomes we want. For example, (to pick a simplified and hypothetical example) do we want an algorithm that rewards teachers for gaming the system to get a higher raise, or do we want an algorithm that results in students having better educational outcomes?
A panel of data experts led a discussion at Civic Hall yesterday about the necessity to interrogate algorithms–to question their goals, efficacy, and context in which they exist. Cathy O’Neil, Meredith Broussard, and Solon Barocas.
I captured the conversation with this set of sketchnotes. The event was sponsored by DataKind, The Microsoft Tech and Civic Engagement team, and was hosted at Civic Hall and was the first in a series of lunchtime events exploring data science called Machine Eatable.
Tech note: I created the sketchnotes in real time on an iPad using the Paper App.
Having a great time at Droidcon NYC and trying out a new look with the white fedora.
Corey Latislaw gave a great talk about bridging the global digital divide with Android devices and development. The rate of digital connectivity is growing exponentially outside the wealthier countries. Designers for a global market need to take a myriad of factors into account—-spotty networks, lack of reading and tech literacy, poor access to electricity, cultural sensitivities and more. The upside of developing apps with a truly global user base in mind is that you will create highly efficient apps that work better for everybody. That and you have the potential to reach people with their first digital experience, with the potential to change their lives.
Got to combine three things I love, interviewing, drawing,and writing, in this set of
interviews I visualized at Droidcon NYC. Interviewees varied from a senior android developer at the New York Times, to a software engineer from Florence, Italy, via London, to a high school sophomore from Bensonhurst, Brooklyn.
Thanks to Touch Lab for hosting me at this fascinating community gathering of developers of this widespread and versatile operating system which powers all kinds of devices all over the world.
Below: a slideshow of the visuals, and people soaking them up at Droidcon NYC:
Renowned tech author (and my former professor), Clay Shirky moved to Shanghai last year and has been studying Chinese strategies of censorship and propaganda using social media. Clay discussed civic media in China, and what it might mean for other countries to provide a model of high communicative freedom and low political freedom. I captured the highlights of the talk with some large scale visual notes at Civic Hall. Fascinating stuff! The tension between the Chinese government’s desire to keep its elites happy and its economy humming, and its fear of losing control create a volatile, ever shifting media landscape in this dynamic rising power.
To get to know people at the new coworking community I joined, I’m doing a series cartoon interviews with my fellow community members. The community is called Civic Hall, a nexus of people interested in the possibilities of using technology to foster civic engagement.
About me: I’m a cartoonist, graphic recorder, and professor based in NYC. I help make events rock by capturing the ideas swirling around rooms and harvesting the juicy bits as large scale visual notes that everyone can see. I love teaching and mentoring folks and indulge this urge as an adjunct professor at ITP at NYU and University of the Arts Design for Social Impact program.
Coss Marte, CEO Conbody, prison style fitness program
Celine Gruenberg, Civic Hall Intern, NYU student, sunset appreciator.
Here’s an example of some work I did to support a civic tech event a few weeks ago at Brooklyn Law School. The event was about using civic tech in university classes and brought together faculty from NYC and Boston to share experiences and tips with each other.
I was part of a really fascinating workshop a few days ago at the Brooklyn Law and Internet Policy Clinic about using Civic Tech in university classrooms. Folk from NYU, M.I.T., Brooklyn College, Pratt, Parsons, the New School, and many other great institutions discussing the promise and challenges of this emerging movement. What is Civic Tech? Here’s one take on it from Matt Stempeck.
One of the favorite examples I heard was one speaker who discussed how he used NYC civic data in a stats class and had his students look at what fire hydrants were responsible for the most parking ticket revenue. One hydrant in the Lower East Side garnered $55,000 of tickets in one year! Many other fascinating examples and areas of exploration in this rich day of conversation.
Got the opportunity to support learning for three different communities of interest recently.
Community of Interest #1: Nonprofit change agents
Client:Solid Fire Consulting Community of Interest: People who worked in the nonprofit sector who wanted to apply participatory facilitation methods within their organizations. Event: How Can We Work Better Together? Participatory Facilitation and Leadership Methods Workshop Goals: To help set a productive tone for the workshop with a graphic agenda, to enrich discussions with large scale visual notes, and to lead a visual goal setting activity. How we did it: Alissa and I partnered up to weave visual thinking into the fabric of this 1 day workshop. Alissa is a veteran consultant to nonprofits. With her input I created a visual agenda so everyone could see how the day would progress (see above image).
During two discussions I created large scale visual notes, to help reinforce the sharing and learning that was happening.
For the visioning activity, I led a quick drawing lesson, to get everyone comfortable getting their ideas out on paper with pictures. Then I had them imagine a great outcome of using any of the methods they had learned during the day. Once they did that, they drew a scene that depicted that great outcome. Finally, they shared their drawings with their fellow workshop attendees and explained their drawings.
Results: People locked in the value of the experience by drawing and sharing their visions for how they were going to put what they had learned at the workshop to work at their organizations. During the workshop wrapup, a number of participants called out the visual elements and activities of the workshop as an especially powerufl part of their experience that day. Bonus—the drawing activity we did toward the end of the day energized people out of their mid afternoon sleepy slump!
Community of Interest #2: NYU alumni burdened by student debt
Client: NYU’s Interactive Telecommunication Program Alumni Association. Newsweek called ITP been “The Harvard of Interactive.”
Community of Interest: ITP Alums concerned about their student debt loads, and about financial matters in general. Event: NYU ITP Alumni Association $$$ Mini Conference Goal: Create a visual record of the conversations at this mini-conference which centered on the topic of ITP Alum’s student debt in particular, and on the national student debt crisis in general. Did you know that there is over 1 trillion dollars in student debt outstanding and over seven million people in default of their loans right now? Yikes! That’s the bad news. The good news is that knowledge is power, and the ITP alum assembled learned a heck of a lot over the course of the day. And with their data science and data visualization skills, ITP alums have the potential to contribute to general understanding and, who knows, maybe some solutions to this massive national crisis. Things got a little colorful at this event, which you will see if you look closely at these large scale visual notes. Results: People referred to the the graphic recording (visual notes) for the rest of the day. Several people approached me and told me how much they appreciated this visual synthesis of the knotty and emotional issues that came up during the day.
Community of Interest #3: People in the NYC tech startup ecosystem
Client:ObjectRocket/Rackspace Community of Interest: People interested in working at, creating, or partnering with tech startups. Event: NY TechDay, New York City’s biggest tech startup event Goal: Help people who stopped by the ObjectRocket booth visualize challenges they faced and solutions for overcoming the challenges. How we did it: ObjectRocket’s Data Services Advocate Nikki Tirado interviewed people while I synthesized their conversation into large scale visual notes. We used the notes to inform the interview. At the end interviewees got to take the visual notes with them. Results: The visual interviews drew a crowd to the object rocket booth, gave participants unforgettable takeaways, and were tweeted and shared by multiple people, including the organizers of NY TechDay. All in all the event helped brand ObjectRocket and Rackspace as a company which cares deeply about its users.
I recently tested out a social whiteboarding app called Expansive, creating real-time sketchnotes during pitches by startups. The pitches were delivered at a Digital Irish event, a regular meetup of Irish expatriate tech entrepreneurs in NYC.
Expansive is an iPad app, which is designed for multiple collaborators to contribute at once. In this case I was working on my own. I added a few touches afterward, but most of what you see here was done as the speakers presented. I projected my iPad screen as I worked, so people could see the notes develop as I created them. Expansive is very easy to use, and a lot of fun. I enjoyed testing out Expansive—if you want to learn more, visit expansive.io for a free download.
MatchPad pitch–sketchnotes. This one got away from me a little bit. Expansive lets you zoom in and out as you work, and it has a (theoretically) infinite canvas size. I lost track of my layout in the sketchnotes above in the course of moving around. Next time I might put in a few marks ahead of time to give myself some spacial reference points.