Seattle, September 2012
I am a freelance researcher, writer & data analyst in search of interesting systems to tell the stories of.
What I’m good at
I have a broad science training, experience working with computer models and numerical data, and experience explaining technical concepts and data to people who don’t have a science or engineering background. I do best in that sort of interpreter role, bridging the communication gap between specialisms or between scientists and the people who need to understand their work. I also have the underlying technical computing skills to adapt and fix tools that don’t quite do what we need them to.
What I’m drawn to
It’s important to me to work on things that promote sustainability in a thoroughly humanistic sense: making life better for people alive today without making worse for those in the future. There are many ways that can work, but if your project doesn’t make the world a better place in at least some small way I don’t want to hear about it.
Examples of current projects
- I am advising a faith group on how to evaluate the impacts of its own practices. I give them guidance on how to conduct the study to minimise possible sources of bias, and I will analyse the data for them after they have collected it.
- I was responsible for survey and indicator data at The Happiness Initiative, which is a project to get wellbeing taken seriously as a public policy goal. This feels important to me because it’s a necessary step for the moral revolution that humanity needs to not destroy ourselves, and to get us off the suicidal path of endless growth. It’s interesting because I get to explore the data we’re gathering and write about what I learn from it. I continue to help out as an advisor and occasional technical consultant. Some days I’m tinkering with PHP to keep the online wellbeing survey behaving itself; others I’m standing up in front of conference delegates talking them through what the survey results mean.
- I researched issues for Chris Jordan and wrote background pieces about his artwork, explaining the issues he illustrates, why people should care and what they can do to help. I continue to help him with his social media presence, and hope soon to be fundraising for the next round of research work. His art was an influence on my journey to activism, and with this project we’re hoping to have that effect on more people.
Things I’ve done in the past
- Wrote the data analysis parts (pp 8-33) of a happiness report card for Seattle’s local government.
- Organised a symposium about the likely impacts of climate change on water resources in the Pacific Northwest.
- Managed groups of volunteers, interns and employees on projects ranging from habitat restoration to launching a new business venture.
- Helped produce an art show full of machines that go ping.
- Taught computer programming and web site development to beginners, and the use of Excel for data analysis to more advanced students.
- Tested an artificial intelligence technique based on ideas from biology, to show that it could be practical for a specific real-world application.
- Had photos published in a couple of books, magazines and a few websites.