Algorithms of Inequality: A Talk With Cathy O’Neil


The advantages of diversity in the tech industry have been carefully studied and reported on. Companies that hire women and minorities outperform their competitors and see higher financial returns. New studies, reported on by FastCompany, show that industry leaders are well-aware of the value of diversity. Yet, we aren’t seeing the rush for inclusion that we would expect. Advice for how to increase diversity focuses on things like improving the language of recruitment and creating a more friendly working environment. However, there is a key component of the modern hiring landscape that gets overlooked.

Take a moment to think about what makes a good employee. What qualities do they have? What type of impact do they have on their company?

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HI Investigates the Impact of POV Documentaries, Part 2: TV Broadcast Time


In the previous post, we discussed analysis of POV’s screenings, surveys, and web analytics. In this post, we will discuss the effects of TV airtime and channels on viewers’ behavior. For background on the partnership, please see the previous post.

With the recent spotlight on the effects of television airtime on audience size and engagement, Harmony Institute and POV wanted to know how a primetime broadcast affects the film’s impact, specifically how it affects the information-seeking behavior of visiting the films’ web pages to learn more about the film and the issues it covers. We cannot know for sure what motivates someone to visit a documentary’s POV page, but there is a well known relationship between the buzz that results from one set of people hearing about something, enjoying it, and telling their friends, and those people being motivated to learn more.

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HI Investigates the Impact of POV Documentaries, Part 1: Screening Events


In the summer of 2015, Harmony Institute (HI) kicked off its partnership with POV (a production of American Documentary Inc.) to perform research into the impact of the organization and their lineup of films. Since 1988, POV has brought unique perspectives to the American public through independent documentaries. The program supports national television broadcasts through PBS, digital distribution of films through an online viewing platform, as well as educational and community screenings.

In this post, we will discuss how HI used POV’s screening event survey data to examine how different activities at screening events affects the impact those events have on participants. In part 2 we will discuss the effect of TV airtime and channels on viewers’ behavior.

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3 Types of Impact You Can Visualize With StoryPilot


This post was originally published on

There are thousands of meaningful ways to create positive change with storytelling, and metrics to measure the success of those changes. With all of these possibilities, where do you even start thinking about measuring impact? This was the problem we had in mind when we created StoryPilot, an online platform that tracks the creation and impact of over 500 social issue documentaries. We used a few simple questions to organize information and provide a starting place for thinking about the difference that a film can make in the world:

  • What issue is the film addressing?
  • How was the film made?
  • Who was involved?
  • What changes were we able to observe?

Knowing that every film’s story is different, we gathered publicly available data that speaks to broadly applicable types of impact. Here are three things you can look for on StoryPilot and how to to interpret what the data is telling you.

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What Inequality Means to Americans

I4A Screenshot

Income inequality has undeniably become a hot-button issue. If election campaigns are any indication, this topic has become a major concern for Americans. With events such as the Great Recession and the Occupy Wall Street Movement, the conversation around income inequality has been shifting rapidly as the relevance of the issue has become more evident in the average person’s life. By examining public discourse across a range of platforms, we can visualize how this shift came to be.

The documentary, Inequality for All, was directed by Jacob Kornbluth and produced by Jen Chaiken and Sebastian Dungan. Guided by Robert Reich, the film takes the viewer on a journey through the past century of American economic history to learn what income inequality is and the impact it has had on the wellbeing of the American people. Inequality for All and its associated campaign aim to increase awareness of the cost and causes of income inequality in America. We worked with the makers of the film to identify key frames in the discussion that we could use as indicators of change. We collaborated with them first in 2013 to take a snapshot of the issue environment before the documentary had been released, and again in the fall of 2015, two years after the film’s release, to see how much had changed.

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Request for proposals: Website redesign

HI is seeking a design and development team to help us build a new website that reflects our organizational growth and aspirations. Download the RFP here. Questions and proposals can be emailed to Lauren Hanson at

A new perspective on documentary film

As we observed in a 2012 blog post, the last 14+ years have seen a substantial rise in the number of documentaries produced, particularly documentaries that focus on social issues.

Given this trend, we wondered: what issues or topics are most prominent among filmmakers working in the field? Does coverage of a specific issue ebb and flow over time? What can we learn from looking at the field in aggregate?

We turned to the growing database that will fuel StoryPilot to find out. (At the time of writing, the collection includes detail on 433 social impact documentaries released between 2000 and 2014.)

This post kicks off a series in which we’ll share some of our early findings about the social issue documentary landscape, in order to put data about documentaries and social issues into the hands of storytellers. Our goal is to help everyone find meaning in the data, and shed light onto the intersection of film, social issue campaigns, and society.

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How is data used to understand different types of impact?

sheffield smallOn Wednesday, June 11, HI’s Senior Creative Technologist, Clint Beharry, spoke at the Sheffield Doc/Fest in Sheffield, England.  In its 21st year, the Sheffield Doc/Fest is one of the top three documentary festivals and markets in the world. In his talk, “How is data used to understand different types of impact?,”  Beharry presented HI’s StoryPilot, and how it measures the impact of documentary films. Click here to read more about the Sheffield Doc/Fest.