Advancing the Human Work of Data Science

In my dissertation, I unpack data science as a social, situated, and collaborative practice, particularly focusing on the oft-invisible and under-articulated forms of human work essential to the design, development, and deployment of data science systems. Examples of such work include: translating high-level goals into tractable data-driven problems, improvising on algorithmic methods and mechanical rules in the face of empirical messiness, collaboratively making sense of model results, and justifying the trustworthiness of data, algorithms, models, and numbers. I study such forms of work ethnographically in the context of academic and corporate data science.

Research Advising

Critical Design
and Data Science

Advised Maya Klabin – an Information Science senior – on a project to study ways to effectively identify and support forms of human work (choices, decisions, and assumptions) in data science practices. Critical and speculative design were used as methodologies to identify possible solutions.

Data Science
Decision Dashboards

Advised Dou Mao – graduate student in Information Science – on a project to develop mid-/high-fidelity prototypes of a data science decision dashboard to make visible the choices and decisions in building data science models.

Data Analysis

Advised Information Science undergraduate students Sherry Ge and Emily Zhang on an year-long project to develop alternative data-driven approaches to understand player performance in League of Legends. A key component of this project was the reflexive analysis of Sherry and Emily’s own assumptions and decisions within data-driven analyses.

Visualizing the
Data Science Process

Advised Information Science graduate students Dai SiqiChen PanZhenyi Xia, & Val Mack on their final graduate project to develop a critical data science design solution for a process workflow template that enables the documentation and communication of the assumptions and decisions that went into the design and development of data sets and algorithmic models.

Selected Past Projects

Imitation Game

Worked at Cardiff University with Harry Collins and Robert Evans on the Economic Research Council (ERC) Advance Research grant funded Imitation Game (IMGAME) project. IMGAME is a method for cross-cultural and cross-temporal comparison of societies using a web-version of the famous parlor game played between two different, yet interrelated, social groups. Here is a poster describing the working of and my analysis of the IMGAME project.

Digital Ressentiment

Research Masters thesis for the CAST programme supervised by Jan de Roder. In the thesis, I analyzed public expressions of ressentiment within the Dutch debate on immigration. Building on Max Scheler’s sociology of ressentiment, the thesis develops theoretical heuristics to analyze the Dutch sociocultural landscape with respect to the sociopolitical issue of immigration. A special emphasis lies on the nature and implications of the democratization of information, through the advent of news media and internet technologies, for the social shaping of public opinion.

Internet Science: Online Privacy, Identity, Trust, and Reputation

Worked with Sally Wyatt as part of the eHumanities group at the Royal Netherlands Academy for Arts and Science (KNAW) on the EU project Network for Excellence in InterNet Science (EINS). My work involved researching the social shaping of the notions of privacy and trust regarding online social media technologies to understand how online technologies manage users’ trust and privacy expectations.

Online Bug Discussions on GitHub

I examined software bug discussions on GitHub. The outcome was a topic model of a set of related discussions that showcases ‘themes’ in people’s software bug discussions. The meta goal of this project was to identify effective mixed-method strategies i.e. are there ways to use quantitative research to supplement qualitative research? The topic model,  providing an overview of specific themes in bug discussions, was a valuable asset in creating topic guides for interviewing users, programmers, and developers on their software debugging practices.

Situating Software within Sociology of Testing

This project focused on an empirical case-study of software development to highlight the negotiated, temporal, and situated character of software testing processes. What, when, and where is testing? The project employed the empirical case-study to nuance existing concepts and notions within the sociology of testing.