My favourite part of yesterday, Edward Snowden notwithstanding, was a workshop by Nate Matias of MIT Media Lab and Sarah Szalavitz, CEO of 7 Robot, on the topic of bias and collaboration (I realised later that Sarah co-ran a course on social design in 2013 with Cynthia Brezeal, who is another MIT alum whose work I’ve been following over the last few years).
Humans are inherently biased beings (I recalled Dan Ariely and Predictably Irrational amongst others) and Nate and Sarah are working on developing tools that help people acknowledge their innate biases and importantly help them overcome it as well. This is crucial especially in the case of people who have public and political roles: if you are a journalist or a government representative, then you cannot, for example, ignore the voices of women – who statistically form 50% of the world population. There are many tools now that shed light on media organisations who do not give this fact enough due: the Op Ed Project tracks the number of women who get the chance to write opinion pieces in leading news outlets, Harvard’s Project Implicit allows anyone to assess how biased they are for themselves, Whose Voices? examined the gender of the people most quoted in non-profit Global Voices’ articles over a period of 8 years andthe Open Gender Tracker is a project by Nate Matias, the Knight Foundation and Bocoup to do the same thing in news content. There is also a really detailed project by Matias and Lisa Evans on the Guardian data blog where they compared the share of voice of women in media in the Guardian, Telegraph and the Daily Mail. When comparing the number of articles written to the rate of social sharing of those articles, it was discovered that
“Readers of the Guardian and Daily Mail tend to share a greater percentage of women’s writing than the proportion of what the newspapers publish. Guardian opinion articles by women are 35% of what gets shared, compared to 30% of what is published. Only 21% of the Daily Mail’s opinion articles are by women but those women generated 35% of the opinion section’s shares and likes.
To see live photos of SXSW view PHD’s Pinterest page.
Anjali Ramachandran is the Head of Innovation at PHD UK. Follow @anjali28