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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Meaningful Media Now


As an organization interested in media impact, our “water cooler” chatter around the office often includes TV series that moved us, games we’re addicted to, and media trends that affect us. Read on to see the meaningful media and cultural phenomenons HI staff has been talking about in July:

  1. Featuring: Pokémon Go
  2. Orange is the New Black and Mother Jones
  3. Male Sexual Assault on Television
  4. YouTube Music      

1. Featured Analysis: Pokémon Go

They’re everywhere. The launch of Pokémon Go, an augmented reality game, has allowed for masses of people to participate in a mutual journey to catch Pokémon. As players vie to “catch em all,” they are instructed to walk around in pursuit of Pokémon. As players roam neighborhoods, they are notified of Pokéstops (areas that provide free items), lures (areas that are drawing Pokémon for 30 minutes), and Pokémon spawning in the area. A GPS tracker calculates steps as players walk. The game is compelling, addicting, and has gone viral since its July 6 release.

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VR: Beyond the Empathy Machine


Virtual reality is in the eye of the beholder. Filmmaker and entrepreneur Chris Milk optimistically calls VR an “empathy machine,” while the Wall Street Journal warns that VR’s “hype is about to come crashing down.” Across this spectrum of opinion, the only thing everyone can agree on is that it’s a newly accessible medium offering novel experiences for audiences.

Do these experiences lead to empathy? If you define empathy as, “knowing and feeling what another person knows and feels,” of course some VR stories do. So do some books, radio programs, and movies – each in their own way. Saying VR is an empathy machine is like saying a paintbrush is an art machine. There are myriad ways to generate aspects of empathy with media, just like there are infinite ways to create forms of art with tools.

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Meaningful Media Now

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As an organization interested in media impact, our “water cooler” chatter around the office often includes TV series and movies that made us think, podcasts that moved us, or video games we are addicted to. Read on to see the meaningful media HI staff has been talking about in March:

  1. Featuring: Hamilton – History in the Limelight
  2. Freakonomics
  3. Horace and Pete
  4. House of Cards
  5. League of Legends
  6. *Honorable Mention: That Dragon, Cancer and Thank You For Playing

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Virtual reality may foster empathy, but without accomplishing goals


“Virtual reality represents a giant leap forward in mankind’s propensity for compassion. You don’t just walk in someone’s shoes, but see the world through their eyes. In essence, a virtual reality headset is an empathy machine.”– Josh Constine, TechCrunch [1]

Storytellers focused on creating social impact are excited to use new virtual reality technologies to inspire empathy. While we’re also excited, we want to highlight how exactly this might (not) work when it comes to inspiring action. The experience virtual reality creates, even if it fosters empathy, may generate a very different outcome from what storytellers have in mind.

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Making data evocative

Tribeca Film Festival isn’t the first place you’d expect to find an art installation that plays with sensory deprivation, virtual reality, and biometrics, but that’s exactly where the UK-based creative agency Anagram chose for the Stateside debut of their immersive documentary experience, Door into the Dark. Those participating were asked to “replace the visual with the sensual”  by blindfolding themselves, donning heart-rate monitors and headphones that would provide narration as they moved through an unfamiliar, staged environment.  HI joined forces with Tribeca and Anagram to analyze the biometric data collected from participants throughout their avant-garde narrative experience.

In this post, our Director of Design and Technology Clint Beharry and in-house designer Sher Chew chat about their experience creating meaningful visualizations from the biometric data provided by Door into the Dark participants.

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