Around the Web: Computeriana

A few things I’ve come across browsing recently for the (sometimes silly) computers & culture file.

1. Correlation is not causation: the picture book. As the saying goes, “torture the data and it will say anything,” apparently even that previously unknown lurking variable linking Nicholas Cage films and swimming pool deaths, or crude oil and chicken consumption.

Correlation is not CausationCheck out Tyler Vigen’s delightful “Spurious Correlations” site for many more and for his engaging video that will teach you something too.


2. Forget a dogged ability to search out “Who? What? When? Where? Why? and How? today’s reporters need to know the statistical language “R” and turn in their (now very figurative) Underwoods for a Computational Journalism Server, whatever that is. Kidding aside, given that data is oil of the 21st century, it makes sense that people should figure out how it is made, and how to use the tools it offers.

Rosalind Russell working on determining the “P Value” for a murder story she is writing in Howard Hawkes’ great newspaper comedy, “His Girl Friday.” (Itself a version of that classic newspaper play, “The Front Page.” )

Still, a dual Master of Science in M.S. in Computer Science and Journalism? A strange mash up, dare I say a forced correlation with no causal link? I’m a nerdy data guy, and I could, under duress, possibly become a (crappy) R programmer. I also wrote for newspapers for years, and grew up with a couple being published from my home. They really seem like very different mindsets. Yes, journalists need data scientists, but I’m not buying for a second that data scientists are journalists per se, any more than they are educators. They have an amazing tool set, but it’s not the whole game.

3. John Cage: The App Some enterprising soul has created 4′ 33″ for iOS. (I was tipped to this by an interesting web magazine on classical music, art and technology.) It is not, despite what you may think, a joke (neither was the original). I haven’t downloaded it yet, but it seems very true to part of Cage’s program (if I can be forgive that mundane word) of reorganizing how we think about sound and silence.


One Reply to “Around the Web: Computeriana”

  1. A P.S. from a review of an Alexander Cockburn anthology, further enumerating the non-quantitative skills of a journalist.

    It was Tomalin who famously observed “the only qualities essential for real success in journalism are rat-like cunning, a plausible manner, and a little literary ability”

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