Happenstance is a wonderful thing

So this year I’ll be 47 – three years off 50. I thought my life would be slowing down, but then sitting on the couch watching Coronation Street or Eastenders has never held much appeal.
Last week my latest course started so I’ve been busy reading research papers all week. The course is brand new, a Pg Cert in Making Use of Digital Research, distance learning at Edinburgh University. The first module looks at the social shaping of digital research – I had my usual wobble, thinking I wasn’t going to be intelligent enough but I suspect I just picked the wrong paper first.
One paper struck many chords though. My last post about teenage relationships on Facebook drew a comparison to some of Danah Boyd‘s research and I’m ashamed to admit I didn’t even know who she was at the time. I did a bit of digging though and was pleased to discover that my random thoughts are actually being proved right by actual research by someone so influential. Her paper Six Provocations for Big Data echos more random thoughts of mine about how the white male geeks have had their way too long and that coding and data analysis should be core to every pupil’s learning, across every subject, a conversation I’ve had with our Education Improvement Manager and Caroline Stuart Business Development Director at Oracle. About 18 months ago I had a T-shirt made with the legend ‘The geek shall inherit the earth’ on the front and if we don’t act soon it’ll come true. For our children to understand the world round about them they will need killer coding and data analysis skills.

Geek T-shirt
This course is aimed at policy makers and our employee development manager is keeping an eye on the course for colleagues. I’ll give you regular updates on here but if I’m anything to go by an old dog can definitely learn new tricks, especially if there are biscuits involved!
The other things that will be keeping me busy is a research project at Glasgow University. I was asked by the project lead for some feedback on his initial proposal and after a couple of reads it blew my mind.
The Serendipity project’s aim is to develop a dashboard for use by organsations to help with decision-making when working on new policies. It can also be used to give a real-time picture of a place or scenario and maybe even used during emergency situations to help work out the best decisions on the fly.
The idea is to overlay real hard data with all available social data to create community biographies. It’s hoped that public behaviour could also be predicted over time.
For instance if you overlay all the anti-social behaviour data a council has about an area with all the sentiment created about the area on social media you’d get a rounder picture than just all the bad news.

Serendipity equation
If there’s a major accident on the roads, social info about how people divert around it can be used to model future behaviour and help roads departments and the police plan ahead.
During incidents, past research can be overlaid with social data and emergency planning decisions about evacuations etc and can be tested for potential public reaction before they are actually announced.
It’s looking highly likely that the council will be signing up to the research to be partner, although the details still have to snagged. Needless to say I’m excited.
I might not be ready for the easy chair yet but a nice comfy pair of slippers wouldn’t go amiss and maybe a SAGA holiday brochure.

A song from me to you

Miles Kane – Happenstance

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4 comments

  1. siwhitehouse · January 18, 2015

    Good to see you’re keeping busy, and good luck on the course – it looks really interesting. I’ve saved that Boyd and Crawford research paper for alater read (it’s a bit long for a Sunday night).
    I’m looking forward to reading more about the serendipity project too. I’m interested in how they will gauge how representative social media postings can be of a community as a whole.

    • carolynemitchell · January 19, 2015

      As I said the Serendipity Project kind of blows my mind when I think about it. It’s difficult enough for me to get my head round so it’ll be a hard sell to policy makers I’m guessing.

  2. Sweyn Hunter (@sweynh) · January 20, 2015

    Very interested in the Serendipity Project – keep us posted! Good luck with the course (not that you will need it!) – I realised the other day that I am less than 15 months from my 50th birthday: time to initiate the planning phase of Operation Old Git, I think (if only to make sure I get round to having a party!)

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