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Cooking data with care in MDSI

Raw data is both an oxymoron and a bad idea;  to the contrary, data should be cooked with care.” (Bowker, 2005)

Inspired by the fantastic opening provided in the public seminar presented by Geof Bowker (University of California at Irvine) about thinking critically and ethically about the intersection of Data Science, Information Infrastructure and Society, MDSI students enrolled in the mid-year intake of the program participated in a ‘serious game’ as part of their Self-tracking Data Project.
MDSI masterchef challenge
The MasterChef (Data)Mystery Box challenge was designed to help students to become mindful about how to ’cook their data with care’ — putting into practice some core principles to enable creative insights to emerge whilst remaining ever aware of the ethical implications of their actions. To help them learn in a fast-fail and playful manner, student teams were presented with the challenge of trying to do something ‘extraordinary’ (aka: innovating) with their data ‘mystery box’ whilst also treating that data with the appropriate respect that ‘granular social data’ warrants.  Students were ‘judged’ by a data science professional taking on the role of Master Chef and three ‘amateur chefs’ in the form of students who completed the project last semester to a high standard.  The activity mirrored many of the core principles of learning.futures, with pre work in the form of data preparation, screencasts to help them prepare for a fast-paced in-class challenge that took advantage of the university’s collaborative classrooms. Students were also given opportunities for self-relfection and peer discussion about their learning. This serious game helped students to appreciate that much of the invisible work of data science involves pre-processing and managing the ‘messiness’ of complex and diverse data. And we also discovered an exciting opportunity for bringing industry expertise more actively and engagingly into our data science classes. Win-Win and carefully cooked data!

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