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Podcast: Explaining the art behind data

Society has access to more data than ever before. How do we make sense of it all?
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Illustration of a head, with a brain filled with cogs. Text says "The Art of Data"
Image: Alan Scott

Data are everywhere — nearly anything can be represented by a number. In simple form, data tell a story backed by numerical truth. But data are rarely simple or pure — and we have access to more data now than any time in history.

So how can we make sense of this never-ending wave? And how can we better understand data and use them solve real-world problems? In a new Slice of MIT podcast, five MIT alumni — including a professor at the MIT Sloan School of Management — discuss how their work and research are tackling these questions in innovative ways.

You’ll hear how five-star ratings online are driven by social identity; how designers are mapping data to improve major U.S. cities; how data can affect privacy and though stagnation; and how a "Jeopardy!"-winning computer is discovering new recipes such as "Italian-Pumpkin Cheesecake." (A written transcript of the podcast is also available.)

The podcast features: 

  • Sinan Aral PhD ’07, the David Austin Professor of Management and associate professor of information technology and marketing at MIT Sloan, and an expert on social networks, social media, and digital strategy who has worked with Facebook, Yahoo, The New York Times, and Nike;
  • Denise Cheng SM ’14, a peer economy expert who has been featured in Harvard Business Review and on NPR;
  • Tiffany Chu ’10, co-founder of the transit planning tool Remix with past experience at at Code for America, Zipcar, and Pixar Animation Studios;
  • Jacquelyn Martino PhD ’06, a designer at IBM who works in the IBM Watson Group, where she helps Chef Watson brings cognitive computing — and delicious recipes — to consumers; and
  • Matt Stempeck SM ’13, director of civic technology for Microsoft, who has designed technologies for civic impact at non-profits, startups, and consultancies.

These interviews were originally recorded at the 2015 South by Southwest Interactive, which featured more than 100 MIT faculty and alumni who presented research at the festival. 

Listen to the podcast on Slice of MIT, the Alumni Association’s SoundCloud page, or by subscribing on iTunes.

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