Data, Polling, the Media and Democracy

For the last few weeks, my mind has been arrested by a single thought: Donald Trump is president-elect. How did we get here, and where do we go from here?

Today, my attempts to answer these questions lead me to Data, Polling, the Media and Democracy, a panel discussion by Columbia’s Data and Society Taskforce. It was introduced by David Madigan (Executive Vice President for Arts and Sciences, Professor of Statistics at Columbia University), it featured Nate Silver (Founder and Editor in Chief of FiveThirtyEight), Emily Bell (Director of the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia University), and Robert Shapiro (Wallace S. Sayre Professor of Political Science at Columbia University), and it was moderated by Ester Fuchs (Professor of International and Public Affairs and Political Science at Columbia University).

I didn’t necessarily learn a lot of new things, and it wasn’t a particularly groundbreaking event, but it felt satisfying to be there. It was exactly what I wanted and needed: space and time dedicated to making sense of what happened in the election and to thinking of ways forward.

Much of the discussion was about decision making under uncertainty and truth and trust in journalism. I could tell you all about it, but it was recorded, so you have the chance to experience it for yourself. My favorite parts were:

  • David Madigan’s call for general quantitative literacy
  • Robert Shapiro’s assertion that “facts and data matter because they have real world consequences”
  • Emily Bell on the rising “existential anxiety to support good journalism”
  • Nate Silver on “curating [readers’] experience” and keeping articles in context

If you don’t have time to watch the whole video, at least watch the discussion at 1:00:58 – 1:08:10 that considers the future of journalism, with a focus on business models, truth, and trust.

Office Hack 2016

As a budding Americanist, I dreamt of working in public history, be it at a library or museum or historical society.  That dream was predicated on romantic ideals of sharing and preserving American history for public and progeny. Alas, the reality of working in a chilly, dimly lit, and often silent environment, meant this dream would remain a dream, lest it materialize into a nightmare. Thank goodness for internships and work exploration programs!

Today, I participated in Office Hack, a “tech crawl” by 2020 Shift and Spotify. I had the opportunity to visit several tech companies in NYC and to hear from software engineers about what it’s like to work at those companies and about what advice they have for students and junior developers.

My favorite stop was the Mastercard Tech Hub. There’s a certain appeal to having the security of a long established company with the atmosphere of a startup. So what does it take to work in such an environment? Here’s what the Mastercard Tech Hub looks for in entry-level applicants:

  • an aptitude and ability to learn
  • technological and intellectual curiosity
  • knowledge of background and trends in your area of interest
  • a portfolio that shows what you’ve learned and researched on your own
  • a problem-solving process

In short, an unrelenting desire to learn and a commitment to constantly improving as a developer. Challenge accepted.