Award-winning scholar & writer on digital communities, data science, and dance. Tweets @cmcd_phd. Holds PhD in suitably unexpected & obscure subject. Very tall. Frequently a bit silly.
Swimming Against the Tide
I’ve lived in the UK since 2006 when I first came over for graduate school. Every year the immigration rules became more stringent, sometimes in surprising ways. For example, when I realised that the rules had changed when I wasn’t looking and would no longer be eligible for a tier one work visa after my PhD. This was because I’d spent my entire final year focused on my PhD (or severely depressed and unable to focus on anything, as is so common in academia) instead of part-time working and earning the minimum income threshold for tier one applicants. Now on the cusp of becoming a citizen, this journey has been the most dehumanizing, dispiriting, and wearying experiences of my life, touching deeply and painfully on my personal identity. I’ve hesitated to share my story because though I experienced it as great hardship in my life, I am still one of the lucky ones. I approached the process with the most possible privilege one can have. Though it was difficult for me, realistically my experience was by far one of the most painless of all the migrants of my acquaintance, and far, far easier than the journey that many others experience.
The Decision Maker's Handbook to Data Science: Book Review
For the uninitiated, data scientists can seem like mystic oracles bringing esoteric wisdom from the slopes of Mount Parnassus. Unfortunately this opacity is leading to increasing skepticism of the field’s effectiveness, with less than 9% of businesses actually able to quantify the impact of their data science investment according to a 2018 survey by Domino Data Lab, and 85% of businesses’ big data projects failing according to 2018 Gartner research. Data science has enormous potential when done right, but the costs of failure are extremely high.
Balance in the Team
“I think it’s good to hire for a balance in the team rather than individual skills. I like to have a balance of men and women in the team because I think women are naturally better at some of those skills which men don’t have and it rounds out the team’s capabilities.”
Walking Through History
Unexpectedly, I found myself walking through literary London, right past the blue plaque commemorating the Bloomsbury Group. On a foggy day, it’s like being back in the early 20th century; you can practically hear them scribbling away behind the white walls of the Edwardian homes on Gordon Square. Not far away on Woburn Walk is William Butler Yates’s old house, and just around the corner in Cartwright Gardens is where Percy Bysshe Shelley and Mary Shelley made their home.
Singing in the Dark
Stopping for groceries on the way home from work. What could be more picayune than this act of a tired commuter? Londoners from Ontario, Ohio, and the multicultural capital city of the UK all share this prosaic duty. None of us can escape this ritual of mundanity; this epitome of adulting. This, along with doing my laundry and the seemingly endless parade of dishes that need washing up, is one of those things that make me wonder why I put up with the expense and pressures of living in a global cultural powerhouse. Why bother, when instead of hobnobbing with the intellectual crowd at an unconference or consuming the city’s artistic treasures or enjoying the hedonistic offerings available, my life mainly consists of a routine that I could do in any London, rather than this specific London. How strange to think that this place I moved across an ocean to experience, that drew me in with its wonders and surprises and the staggering weight of its histories, could fade into a background canvas for a rote existence of going through the motions. It is amazing that this city could cease to astound through the relentless ebb and flow of the everyday.
Things I Miss about America
It’s too easy to look at what’s happening in the land of my birth right now and breathe a sigh of relief that there is an ocean between me and all the vileness. Rumours of sharks swimming up freeways in the flooding after Hurricane Harvey. Actual Nazis who are not ashamed to show their faces while perpetrating violence. The grim spectre of impending nuclear winter. In my eleven years living in the UK I've seen both countries change in ways that seem so unthinkable I began to wonder whether we've slipped into a parallel dimension. Yet for all the woes Britain is currently experiencing, it seems for the time being to be the lesser of two evils.
“There should be an app for that,” I said. “We should build it!” So we did. “It” is Duologue, a chatbot for Facebook Messenger that rescues you from uncomfortable silences. Visit the page, start chatting with it, and it will offer you some options for continuing the conversation when it looks like the well has run dry. Much like the bottom of my pint glass on the evening we decided to build Duologue.
How a Full Body Wrap Will Definitely Help You Be a Better Person
As an anthropologist, I’m a big believer in the power of ceremony and ritual to mark a life transition, especially when very little about your physical environment will be changing. Something needs to mark that boundary. Recently I got a new job, but it’s in the same company. (I don’t actually work in anthropology anymore. I work in data analytics. But it turns out you can take a person out of an academic career in cultural studies, but you can’t take the cultural studies out of her.) To mark my move from one analytics role to another, I chose a form of cleansing ritual. Starting a new life phase with a pause for cleansing is common: many cultures make use of this to mark out boundaries as diverse as taking a new religion to returning from war to becoming adults. In my case, I was just moving a few rows of desks, but I felt it was important anyway.
Love and Robots
This weekend I celebrated the successful completion of my first-ever Arduino-powered project, a dance costume sleeve that changes colour as the dancer moves. This weekend I also found out that the Afghani competitors in this year's FIRST Global robotics competition, a team of six young women, were at last granted permission to enter the United States in order to join their robot for the competition.
Crafting Your Post-Apocalyptic Resume
If you’ve been marking off the days since President Trump obtained the nuclear codes with increasing trepidation, now might be the time to brush up on your post-apocalyptic resume. Just because your LinkedIn profile and digital portfolio won’t work any more doesn’t mean you can’t present yourself effectively in a new world order. It really is survival of the fittest out there, so make sure you’re up to speed with these top tips.