I teach people to work with data. I believe that everyone – everyone – can use data to help them do the things that are important to them and to do those things better. And so I teach people the principles and the practices that will help them get useful insights and concrete suggestions from their data. I teach online via my own company, datalab.cc, through Lynda.com/LinkedIn, and on YouTube. I teach in person as a professor at Utah Valley University and in workshops that I organize for datalab.cc or with my partners. And, finally, I teach through the books that I have written.
You need tools to work with data. Basic tools include programming languages, specialized statistical and visualization applications, and everyday tools like Microsoft Office, Google Drive, and Apple’s iWork suite. I have taught people to use these tools through online channels, in-person settings, and in print media. The goal is never to master all of the tools or every aspect of a tool but, rather, to be sufficiently familiar with an adequate range of tools that you can easily and efficiently accomplish the tasks before you.
I love art. I believe that practicing art makes for a better data science practice. But mostly I love it because it’s art: it’s beautiful, rewarding, expressive, and fun. I have deep connections to art: I studied design for most of my undergraduate career; I’ve been involved with modern dance for years; I love poetry; I’m a regular patron of the opera; I play the saxophone – of which Gioachino Rossini exclaimed “This is the most beautiful sound I have ever heard!” – and I’m working on methods for computer-assisted composition and live looping in the indie classical genre.
But it was only a few years ago, when I was on a sabbatical to learn more about data visualization, that I (re)discovered the connection between my data work and my aesthetic interests. I learned about “creative coding” and how to use visualization tools – Processing, in particular – to create art. I also learned how to use Max/MSP/Jitter to create music and, at the same time, capture, analyze, and transform video. These developments led to a surprising turn for a data person: showings in two galleries, a commission for a modern dance performance – in partnership with choreographer Jacque Bell (and my wife) – and two years at Utah Valley University working with a Presidential Fellowship to devise methods for live video looping in modern dance. And, through it all, I have maintained an abiding interest in using the lessons learned to enrich my data practice and teaching.