University of Minnesota
University of Minnesota

Where is the Human in the Data?

Where is the Human in the Data?

Thursday, September 29, 3:30-5:00pm: IAS Thursdays

Friday, September 30, 9am—12pm
Crosby Seminar Room, 240 Northrop

Free and open to the public

Download: audio, small video, or original.

This workshop is the launching point for a critical data science study project that is jointly sponsored by the University of Minnesota Informatics Institute and the Institute for Advanced Study. The workshop will include lightning talks by graduate students, table discussions, and developing “10 Questions for Critical Data Studies” that will guide further activities of this project. Participants include:

Emma Bedor Hiland, Communications Studies
(En)coding Inclusiveness in Smartphone Applications for Mentally Disordered Users

This project explores the development of smartphone applications intended to treat mental disorder. Unlike other genres of mobile medical interventions, their creation often includes developers or consultants who have personal experience with mental illness. I suggest this presents a valuable model for inclusivity and diversity in coding.

Lars MacKenzie, Gender, Women, and Sexuality Studies
Accounting for Change: Big Data, Gender Transition and Financial Surveillance of Identity

Big data has transformed financial services, enabling massive collection and networking of consumer data. This research examines how financial institutions manage data about transgender people who change their names, investigating how humans are produced, managed, regulated and normalized through data. I demonstrate that data enables multiple forms of discrimination against transgender people.

Deniz Coral, Anthropology
Markets with Many Faces: The Role of Screens in the Financial Imagination

This project explores the humanistic aspect of big data by investigating how the data appears on computer screens is culturally produced and interpreted by financial players. While screens are generally taken for granted either as mediums or background context of finance, this project challenges this perspective by exploring the ways in which financial players engage with their screens are pivotal for the visualization of financial data, which is contingent upon larger relationships of trust and institutional hierarchy.

Katelin Krieg, English
Victorian Data Analysis and Visualization

We assume that we have little to learn from Victorian Britain about data analysis and visualization. However, the correlation coefficient and scatterplot both emerged during this period. I juxtapose their inventors, Karl Pearson and Francis Galton, with novelist George Meredith to argue that these statistical and literary representations develop from the same philosophical concerns and had the same knowledge goals.

Alexander Fink, Social Work
Locating Human Possibility and Aspirations in Social Service Mass Data Collection Systems

This project collaborates with a team of young people in a Youth Participatory Action Research study to critically investigate and understand the impacts of big data collection in social services on their lives, especially their sense of future possibility and aspirations.

Madison Van Oort, Sociology
Well-Dressed Data: Workplace Surveillance in the World’s Top Retailers

Data-based workplace monitoring is increasingly crucial to retail companies’ ability to slash labor costs. This ethnographic study of the booming fast fashion industry—which sells high volumes of trendy, cheap clothing—investigates how new management software gathers data about worker performance and shapes front-line employees’ relationships to work.

Amelia Hassoun, Anthropology
Big Data, Big Futures: Imagining the Singaporean Smart Nation

My dissertation project analyzes the production of Singapore as the world’s first truly ‘smart city’: a state-space enacting a data-driven future. Through ethnographic study, I examine how big data gathered from civic technologies inscribed in the urban fabric enumerates Singapore’s exceptionally diverse citizenry and brings imagined futures into being.

Alicia Lazzarini, Geography, Environment, and Society
Critically Expanding ‘Data’: Methods for Examining a Southern African Sugar Success
Not recorded
My research expands the notion of data. Mobilizing qualitative, ethnographic and archival methods, I examine a sugar mill’s expansion data and development claims. Addressing labor and land, I analyze disconnects between industry and resident views of investment. I argue: development decisions must be made through diverse, not narrow information forms.

Stephen Savignano, Anthropology
Interaction / Machination: Thinking Machines through Interactive Computation

My proposed research examines interactive paradigms in computer science, and the significance of understanding computation through interactions rather than algorithms. Anchored in the idea of artificial intelligence, interaction highlights humanizing possibilities and inhuman obstacles to asking, “Where is the human in the data?”

Link Swanson, Philosophy
User interfaces and the epistemology of the new computational cognitive revolution

A recent trend in cognitive science leverages large-scale online databases to study human cognition. I argue that the viability of this approach hinges on a key epistemological concern: the role of the user interface in online data creation. I detail this concern and consider possible ways to address it.

This workshop is part of a conference on “Where is the Human in the Data?”, and follows a talk by Ruha Benjamin on Thursday at 3:30pm. Cosponsored by the UMN Informatics Institute, the Minnesota Population Center, the University Libraries and DASH—Digital Arts, Science + Humanities. To request a disability-related accommodation, please contact the IAS ( 612-626-5054) at least two weeks prior to the event.
humanities workshop crop

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    […] of a campus-wide conversation about data with applications for research design. More info available here. See you tomorrow (and […]

  2. Elishka CorreaAugust 30, 2016 at 6:11 pmReply


    I’m pursuing my Master of Arts in Human Resources and Industrial Relations from the Carlson School of Management. I’d like to learn more about data analytics with regard to human resources.
    I’m wondering if I could participate in this workshop.

    Thank you!

    • Aaron Victorin-VangerudAugust 31, 2016 at 9:44 amReplyAuthor

      Sure, it’s open to the public. The organizer is Claudia Neuhauser (

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