Keeping Data Personal: Big scopes, little people

Every now and again I wonder about whether big data can still be personal. This generally occurs after I get a pop-up on my computer or an up-date on my phone which asks if they can track and use my background data.

But it does get me thinking – I hear a lot about us being in the era of “big data”, with mass data collection all around. Some of this is used to categorise us according to our likes and shopping desires. Some is used to actually better the systems and interfaces we work with.

But I know from my own data collection experiences how easy it is (once everyone’s answers are turned into numbers and categories), to lose sight of what those answers really mean in context to each person, and in turn what this means for your research.

But there are people out there making huge efforts to keep our interfaces, data collection and communications not just individual but personal too. I only recently watched a TED Talk by Aaron Koblin from 2011 called, “Visualizing ourselves… with crowd-sourced data”.Read More »

The Potential of Posture.

I watched this TEDtalk by social psychologist Amy Cuddy a little while ago and the idea of “power posing” has definitely stuck with me.

Before meetings I find myself leaning back in my chair, propping my feet up on my desk and linking my hands behind my head. Okay truthfully I only do this when alone in my shared office – but when I do, it feels like an ultimate expression of confidence.

Before my recent Confirmation of Candidature presentation, I hid in the bathroom beforehand and held the ‘Superman pose’ – feet shoulder width apart, hands on hips, chest pushed out and head held high. This research recommends holding a “power pose” like this for two minutes for full effect. And I have to say… I felt really strong and comfortable and in-control.

So if you need a little extra confidence, watch this brilliant TEDTalk and give a “power pose” a go.

Teaching science to share.

I recently watched a brilliant TED Talk by Melissa Marshall called “Talk Nerdy to Me”. She is a communications teacher and is seriously passionate about encouraging scientists to be able to clearly and effectively communicate their work to people outside of scientific circles.

Her top four tips for scientists, engineers and others were:

1. Tell us why your science is relevant to us and our lives. (This is the big picture stuff, or the day-to-day practicality).

2. When describing your science beware of jargon. Jargon is a barrier to outsiders.

3. Use stories and analogies to engage people. (This one is my favourite – stories are such a good way to connect with people).

4. When presenting – don’t use bullet points. (Now this one is tricky… I confess I love bullet points. I thought they made things simpler. I could have a nice few bullet points up on my slide and then talk and expand over the top of them. But Melissa says – just chat to people).

I think I mostly get excited when I hear science communication being discussed by people who have been both in “science and academia” and have also had interesting careers in fields such as, journalism, or teaching, or movie making, or graphic design. They seem like people who love to combine the best of both, and are thereby able to communicate their work, and the work of others in some really cool ways.

Check out the full TEDTalk: