The Harvard Discovery Series is a collaboration between the DSSG and Cabot Science Library which brings scholars on the frontiers of digital knowledge-making to a Harvard audience in an intimate and interactive setting. These presentations demonstrate the unifying potential of digital methods and tools in scholarly, pedagogical, and public pursuits across the disciplines.

The fall 2020 Harvard Discovery Series kicked off in great style in September with a presentation by renowned data visualization expert Alberto Cairo, a journalist, designer, and the Knight Chair in Visual Journalism at the School of Communication of the University of Miami. In his talk “Data Visualization: Reasons, not Rules,” Alberto advocated that we think about data visualization not as a discipline based on strict rules, but as a series of decisions that creators should make based on reasons. Ultimately, this process results in stronger and more relevant visualizations.

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As data are increasingly mobilized in the service of governments and corporations, their unequal conditions of production, asymmetrical methods of application, and unequal effects on both individuals and groups have become increasingly difficult for data scientists––and others who rely on data in their work––to ignore. But it is precisely this power that makes it worth asking: “Data science by whom? Data science for whom? Data science, with whose interests in mind?” These are some of the question that Catherine D’Ignazio and Lauren Klein addressed in October during their presentation on “Data Feminism” to a large virtual audience. Drawing on insights from their collaboratively authored book of the same name, they showed us how feminist thinking can be operationalized into more ethical and equitable data practices.

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Our final presentation of 2020 was perhaps the most apt in a year defined by pandemic, social justice, and electoral crises. In our December talk, Cedric “Vise 1” Douglad, Vanessa Hooper, Jeff Grantz, and Teresita Cochran argued that we need to rethink who our society chooses to memorialize in the form of public statues and monuments.  “The People’s Memorial Project” is a campaign to rethink the future of memorials and monuments on the broadest scale. It is a call for a better process for nomination and giving tribute to the individuals who make our community and our world a better place. The team used projection mapping to illuminate the accomplishments of community heroes.

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Thank you for joining us this past fall! We’ll be back in February to hear from Colin Keenan about how the NC State Libraries’ VRPlants project is leveraging virtual reality advances to create video games, exhibits, workshops, and interactive lessons to teach about plant biology. Register now