civic design

“I Feel Like Any One Data Set Could Be Used for the Powers of Good or Evil”

The Resonance Test 26: Lily Tsai and Sarah Williams

July 31, 2018
by Lee MoreauKen Gordon

Data, data, everywhere. We grow more and more digitized every moment, and as humanity makes its digital transformation, we need people to help us understand what it means and how we can retain our own sense of values. We speak with two such people this time on The Resonance Test. Lily Tsai and Sarah Williams are professors at MIT. Tsai is a political scientist and the founder and faculty director of the MIT Governance Lab or GOV/LAB; Williams is the Director of the Civic Data Design Lab at MIT's School of Architecture and Planning. Together they spoke with our Lee Moreau about data, analytics, human-centered design, and civics. Listen, and you’ll hear our professors profess the following:

Tsai: “On social media or other new media digital platforms, we don’t where the information necessarily comes from, but we think we know. And that’s the problem. We think of them as the same as the newspaper, but they are not.”

Tsai: “Those who study the United States haven’t fully realized that the dynamics in the United States are very similar to the dynamics elsewhere.”

Williams: “In all the data analytic models I do, I really try to make them human-centered…. I’ll develop a model and then I ask those who the model describes whether they think it describes them accurately or, and then ask them to co-develop or change the model with me.”

Williams: “Missing data tells you a lot more than you might think.”

The Resonance Test 26: Lily Tsai and Sarah Williams </

Host: Pete Chapin
Editor: Kyp Pilalas
Producer: Ken Gordon

filed in: civic design

About the Author

  • moreau lee
    Lee Moreau

    Lee Moreau is a Principal at Continuum, a global design and innovation consultancy. An architect and strategist, Lee combines a unique capacity for complex-systems thinking with a deeply empathic perspective, which he uses to critically engage and re-imagine the contemporary world.

    Through research, analysis, and imagination, Lee helps Continuum’s clients understand their entanglement within their own complex set of cultural, material, and economic circumstances. Lee has led service design projects for a diverse group of clients that blur the boundaries between content and experience.

  • Gordon Ken
    Ken Gordon
    Principal Communications Specialist

    Ken makes Continuum’s work visible to the necessary people. He creates superlative content, works with colleagues to do the same, and employs social networks to share it widely.

    A card-carrying humanist, Ken co-founded QuickMuse, the improvisational writing website, and JEDLAB, the Jewish education community. He has written for, the New York Times, and many other pubs.

    Ken has an English degree from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and an MA in English from the State University of New York at Albany. He framed both diplomas long ago, but can’t seem to find them now—a fact he considers all-too-human.