The data-driven, multi-method, context-sensitive life

In the wake of the Shirley Sherrod fiasco, this op-ed from Van Jones struck a chord: how easy it is today to tear someone down based on a single utterance, divorced of context. This piece from Marcia Stepanek about danah boyd’s (yup, that’s how she spells it) reflections on privacy drove the point home:

“The material that is being put up online is searchable by anyone, and it is being constantly accessed—out of context and without any level of nuance,” Boyd told attendees of last week’s Supernova Conference at The Wharton School in Philadelphia. “That kind of spotlight on people can be deeply devastating, and a type of exposure that may not be beneficial to society.” Put simply, Boyd said, “we can’t divorce information from interpretation … or we risk grave inaccuracy.”

Where are the search algorithms that take a result and put it in context? Is this the next frontier Google should be exploring (rather than “being evil“)? Or is that function one that used to be called journalism?

Methodology for evaluation is like this; it needs to be put into context: what are the assumptions being made, what happens to the results if those assumptions are relaxed? The data-driven life is about more than just numbers; the data-driven, multi-method life has to be about context.


Tags: , ,

Leave a Reply