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Mindful Cyborgs: Personalization appeals to a Western, egocentric belief in individualism

This week we continue our conversation with technology critic Sara M. Watson about the “uncanny valley of personalization.”

Download and Notes: Mindful Cyborgs:

Mindful Cyborgs: Identity in a World Ruled by Data

This week we talk with Sara M. Watson, a technology critic and fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University, about her piece in The AtlanticData Doppelgängers and the Uncanny Valley of Personalization.”

Download and Full Transcript: Mindful Cyborgs: Visualizing Data Destinies with Experts Pt 1

Data Doppelgängers and the Uncanny Valley of Personalization

Sara Watson writes:

“What is it about my data that suggests I might be a good fit for an anorexia study?” That’s the question my friend Jean asked me after she saw this targeted advertisement on her Facebook profile: […]

She came up with a pretty good hypothesis. Jean is an MIT computer scientist who works on privacy programming languages. Because of her advocacy work on graduate student mental health, her browsing history and status updates are full of links to resources that might suggest she’s looking for help. Maybe Facebook inferred what Jean cares about, but not why.

Days later, I saw a similar ad. Unlike Jean, I didn’t have a good explanation for why I might have been targeted for the ad, which led me to believe that it could be broadly aimed at all women between the ages of 18 and 45 in the greater Boston area. (When I clicked to learn more about the study, this was listed as the target demographic.)

Still, it left us both with the unsettling feeling that something in our data suggests anorexia

Full Story: Data Doppelgängers and the Uncanny Valley of Personalization

See also: Facebook Could Decide an Election Without Anyone Ever Finding Out:
The scary future of digital gerrymandering—and how to prevent it

Mindful Cyborgs: Data Exhausted

This week Chris Dancy and I celebrate the one year anniversary Mindful Cyborgs by looking back on some of the articles we talked about in the first episode, talking about the future of wearable computing, and making some predictions about the next six months.

Download and Show Notes Mindful Cyborgs: Evaporating Crowdsourced Data and a Very Special Anniversary

Good News for Data Geeks, Bad News for Everyone Else

not hiring

I have a new piece on the dismal impact of information technology on the workforce at ReadWriteWeb:

Last week we told you that enterprises are investing more into business intelligence and analytics initiatives. This week there’s more good news for professionals in this area: according to KDNuggets, salaries are rising for analytics and data mining professionals.

Based on a poll with approximately 250 respondents, KDNuggets found that salaries are up from its 2010 poll in North America, Western Europe, Asia and Latin America. (There is no mention of Eastern Europe, Africa or Antarctica.)

It’s a good time to be a geek, particularly one with a background in statistics, analytics and data mining. But a bad time to be almost any other type of worker.

For example, The New York Times reported on software that can process legal documents at a fraction of the cost of hiring lawyers and paralegals:

“Some programs go beyond just finding documents with relevant terms at computer speeds. They can extract relevant concepts — like documents relevant to social protest in the Middle East — even in the absence of specific terms, and deduce patterns of behavior that would have eluded lawyers examining millions of documents.”

That’s good news for the people who develop that software. But for people in the legal profession? Not so much.

ReadWriteWeb: Good News for Data Geeks, Bad News for Everyone Else

Supplemental reading:

Paul Krugman: Degrees and Dollars

Paul Krugman: Autor! Autor!

Krugman, again, on the same issue back in 1996

And, less dreary but probably less realistic:

Jobs 2.0: Data-centric Jobs for Generation Y

Photo by Daniel Lobo

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