SCPL Online NonFiction Book Club discussion

Everybody Lies: Big Data, New Data, and What the Internet Can Tell Us About Who We Really Are
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Everybody Lies > Google Data and Racism

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message 1: by SCPL (last edited Jun 08, 2018 11:26AM) (new) - added it

SCPL (st_catharines_public_library) | 542 comments Mod
As a data scientist, Seth Stephens-Davidowitz uses information from Google sources, such as Google Trends, to learn more about people’s motivations and actions. He opens with an introduction exploring how Google data predicted the surprising election of President Donald Trump, and revealed the disturbing number of racist search queries Americans make from the privacy of their computers.

Were you surprised the data Stephens-Davidowitz presented in regards to racism? If so, what part surprised you the most? Do you agree with his stance that this racist search data directly correlates with Donald Trump’s success? Do you think there are any inherent flaws in his research?

Did it bother you at all that he used the “n-word” in print this way? I personally found it a bit jarring and disturbing to hear when I listened to the audiobook, but I’m interested to see what others think about his use of the word.

On the eve of our own provincial election, do you think there are any comparisons between the 2016 US Presidential election and the current Ontario election? I certainly don’t have Stephens-Davidowitz’s scientific knowledge or algorithms, but I did play around with some Google Trends searches leading up to today’s election, and it will be interesting to see if what those results suggest will correspond with election results. Have you used Google Trends yourself, and if so, do you have any thoughts to share about it?

Heidi Madden | 118 comments Was I surprised? Yes, we all want to think the world is less ugly than it is. I do think that racism had a certain part to play in Trump’s success but there are other factors there. Like sexism and the fact that people would have voted for anyone but a woman.

Yes, his use of the word is jarring. I feel like there must be a different way to present his research. I don’t think it’s necessary to keep stating it. We know his search terms.

I haven’t used Google Trends but I do know that I search things almost subconsciously. I often think “I wonder about…” and then search it. Most of the time I don’t even click on the links I bring up because my answer (like Obama’s age or some other benign fact) is usually contained just within the search results. I definitely found Stephens-Davidowitz’s findings about who actually votes really interesting last Thursday. I did vote “where and how to vote” and I did vote. Hopefully I bumped up the reported level of engagement in my area ;)

message 3: by SCPL (new) - added it

SCPL (st_catharines_public_library) | 542 comments Mod
You raise a good point about sexism, Heidi. As you said, I think we all want to think the world is less ugly than it is, and I think this applies to sexism as well. I have talked to quite a few people who seem to think that, in 2018, sexism is mostly a thing of the past in North America; however, I think sexism (like racism) is unfortunately still alive and well. You may have already seen it, but I thought this article regarding our own provincial election was quite interesting:

I too find myself searching Google in much the same way. Sometimes I still find it so incredible that when I was a kid, we would spend hours or even days puzzling over some piece of information that we can now access in a heartbeat. I suppose now that the election results are in, I can also say that my brief look at Google Trends definitely did indicate that Doug Ford would win by a landslide!

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