What Improv Storytelling has to offer to Data Artists

In 2015, Ben Wellington gave a TEDx talk on how he borrowed principles from his lifelong love for Improv Comedy and applied it to his Data Visualization practice. “I accidentally became a data storyteller,” he says.

“The Open Data Laws are really exciting for people like me because it takes data that is inside City Government, and suddenly allows anyone to look at it.”

The narrative that came out of contextualizing this data spotted zones that fervent NYC cyclists are better off avoiding and shed some light on the battle strategies of new yorkers’ favorite pharmacies. Wellington closes the distance between Data Viz and Improv by ‘Connecting with People’s Experiences’ and ‘Conveying one simple (and powerful) idea at a time’.

Alan Alda, the seven-time emmy winning actor of M*A*S*H along with Ocean and Environmental Scientist and Associate Director at The Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science, Dr. Christine O’Connell experimented with a group of scientists, doctors and engineers in 2016 in a workshop to employ Improv Storytelling in communicating their research.

“I think anybody that studies something so deeply, whether you’re an engineer, whether you’re an artist, whether you’re in business, you forget what it’s like not to know” – O’Connell

Empathy lies at the heart of Improv and therefore, at the heart of good communication. The idea of speaking to your audience and working with them to create a common language and evolve into clarity is especially relevant for Data Scientists and Data Artists.

The Data Artist creates an imaginary, artificial environment not dissimilar to that of an Improv actor where certain cues are visible and certain others have to be made up. The logic of this environment, however, needs to be consistent and is as important as the trust established within it.

“Even small breaks can affect credibility. – When we visualize data, we are (asking our audience to suspend their understanding of reality for a moment and accept new rules and conditions). We are asking our audience to understand shapes and forms on a digital screen to be something other than what they are.” – Ryan Morrill, Storybench, October 2017.

The Data Viz equivalent of Laughter in an Improv Comedy Scene is the deriving of Insight, says Morrill, where the logic reveals a reward.

Internet Feudalism v/s Net Neutrality – Who wins?

A few weeks ago, the FCC under the chairmanship of Ajit Pai voted to repeal net neutrality, a topic that soared in Google’s search trends this past December. The interest in the subject when ranked by states (sub-regions) is also quite unexpected with Nebraska at the top, since then becoming the first red state to institute pro net neutrality legislation.

While much is being spoken on the subject including the recent legal resistance from several advocacy groups, the internet association and corporations like Amazon, Google and Netflix, the debate within the wider media continues to remain largely polarized, without taking into account the nuances and hidden realities of the current power structures in place within the world wide web.

Lana Polansky, in her article dives into ‘the emptiness of the myth of the internet as some great equalizer’ and what these feudalistic dynamics mean for independent artists, creators and small businesses even with the existing open internet.

large sections of the internet have been carved out and wholly controlled by major corporations and crowdsourcing and marketplace platforms. The virtual land is farmed for content, from which platform holders skim off profit in exchange for use of the platform.

It has always been difficult for people outside the more privileged classes to hack it as artists and intellectuals, but the break with tradition that the internet was originally believed to represent has now given way to a form of virtual feudalism.

Read the full article here.

The astonishing consequences of letting algorithms make real-life decisions

Let’s say you’ve just been convicted of a crime, and a judge is now deciding what your sentence should be. 10 years? 2 years ? Parole? Would this process be less susceptible to bias if an software could review various factors and produce an algorithmically generated recommendation for the judge? Cathy O’Neil’s new book, Weapons of Math Destructionexamines the risks of trusting proprietary software with life-altering decisions. (BR)

Weapons of Math Destruction