The Human in the Data

DASH’s The Human in the Data Initiative focuses on the ubiquity of Big Data and algorithmic decision making in every major sector in our world.  Experts from different fields apply sophisticated algorithms to extract insights from data sets, and expectations are high that these insights will aid decision making in areas such as health, food, energy, education, environment and social policy.  The use of quantitative data for decision-making has 19th-century roots, but in the 20th and 21st centuries, new technology has enabled more complex collection and application of large datasets. When represented by numbers and numerical proxies, individuals and social relationships are abstracted and obscured to both researchers and end users.  Yet data is used to explain, predict, and direct human behavior and define research agendas.

Join us as we seek to critically engage with the humanistic dimensions of this significant cultural shift.


The Human in the Data MnDrive Fellowship Program

Co-sponsored by DASH, Institute for Advanced Study, and Research Computing

We invite applications for graduate student summer fellowships in the amount of $7,000 each to fund research on the humanistic implications of data and its use in one of five MnDrive areas of concentration:  robotics, global food, environment, brain conditions, or cancer clinical trials. This fellowship is intended to fund non-traditional scholarship and engagement work that might not normally fit within standard disciplinary graduate research.  Students in the humanities, arts, and humanistic social sciences are particularly encouraged to apply. Eight fellows will be selected.

Fellowship applications now open and due March 7, 2022.

Full details and application instructions can be found on the IAS website.

Summer 2021 Fellows

  • Nicholas Bauch | “The Shape of Water: Re-mediating limnological shape files into physical form” 
    Art, College of Liberal Arts
  • Christian Bell | “Performing Citizen Science: Facilitating Interdisciplinary Creative Collaborations for a Public Audience at Franconia Sculpture Park” 
    Theatre Arts and Dance, College of Liberal Arts
  • Elizabeth Calhoun | “Our Unhoused Neighbors Are Our Neighbors: Encampments, Housing Affordability and Gentrification in Minneapolis”
    Geography, Environment, and Society; College of Liberal Arts
  • Yun Feng | “Between Limited Physical Space and Limitless Digital Space: Shifting Subjectivities within ‘Taobao Villages’ in Contemporary Rural China”
    Anthropology, College of Liberal Arts
  • Snigdha Kumar | “Banking on/with Big Data: Decoding Value in India's Financial Technology Industry”
    Sociology, College of Liberal Arts
  • Stephanie Lindquist | “Intergenerational Data in Art: Women Relearning Indigenous Food Sovereignty in Gorama Mende, Sierra Leone”
    Art, College of Liberal Arts
  • Adam Negri | “CTE and Research Paradigms: Advocating for Equity in Trauma-Related Brain Disease”
    History of Medicine, Medical School
  • Brieanna Watters | “Geographic Isolation and Indefinite Detention: Spatial and Temporal Inequality among American Indians in Pre-Trial Detention”
    Sociology, College of Liberal Arts

 Summer 2020 Fellows

  • Manami Bhattacharya | “The effect of mental illness on outcomes among older women with breast cancer”
    Health Policy and Management, School of Public Health
  • Yuming Fang | Empowered social bots: Content analysis of bots-created anti-vaccine information on Twitter
    Hubbard School of Journalism and Mass Communication, College of Liberal Arts
  • Johnathan Hardy | Ornithological Empire: A Spatio-Analytical Approach to Mapping the Qing Dynasty’s Compendium of Birds (鳥譜, niaopu) (1736 – 1795 CE)
    Department of Art History, College of Liberal Arts
  • Milica Milic-Kolarevic | Law of Gift Gratitude: Serbian Oncology Practices
    Department of Anthropology, College of Liberal Arts
  • Jennifer Nicklay | Community Land and Food Lab Meetings: Facilitating Co-Learning Spaces for Urban Agriculture in Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN
    Department of Soil, Water, and Climate, College of Food, Agricultural, and Natural Resource Sciences
  • Prerna | Aerial Eyes 1
    Department of Art, College of Liberal Arts
  • Hayden Teachout | Aerial Eyes 1
    Department of Art, College of Liberal Arts
  • Sultan Toprak Oker | Harmony of Discordance: Machine Vision, Alcohol Networks, and Taverns
    Department of History, College of Liberal Arts
  • Rebecca Walker | Critical Cartography for Urban Environment Planning: Exploring the role of participatory mapping in the quest for environmentally just cities
    Humphrey School of Public Affairs

 Summer 2016 Fellows

  • Emma Bedor Hiland | (En)coding Inclusiveness in Smartphone Applications for Mentally Disordered Users
    Communication Studies, College of Liberal Arts
  • Deniz Coral | Markets with Many Faces: The Role of Screens in the Financial Imagination
    Anthropology, College of Liberal Arts
  • Alexander Fink | Locating Human Possibility and Aspirations in Social Service Mass Data Collection Systems
    Social Work, College of Education & Human Development
  • Amelia Hassoun | Big Data, Big Futures: Imagining the Singaporean Smart Nation
    Anthropology, College of Liberal Arts
  • Katelin Krieg | Victorian Data Analysis and Visualization
    English, College of Liberal Arts
  • Alicia Lazzarini | Critically Expanding ‘Data’: Methods for Examining a Southern African Sugar Success
    Geography, Science, & Environment, College of Liberal Arts
  • Lars MacKenzie | Accounting for Change: Big Data, Gender Transition and Financial Surveillance of Identity
    Gender, Women, & Sexuality Studies, College of Liberal Arts
  • Stephen Savignano | Interaction / Machination: Thinking Machines through Interactive Computation
    Anthropology, College of Liberal Arts
  • Link Swanson | User interfaces and the epistemology of the new computational cognitive revolution
    Psychology, College of Liberal Arts
  • Madison Van Oort | Well-Dressed Data: Workplace Surveillance in the World’s Top Retailers
    Sociology, College of Liberal Arts



University of Minnesota Day of Data 2021

January 2021

The Human in the Data Spring 2021 Symposium

February 2021

• Caitlin Rosenthal, Department of History, UC Berkeley

“Balance Sheets of Life and Death: Accounting for Slavery”

October 2020

• Deborah Lupton, Centre for Social Research in Health and Social Policy Research Centre, UNSW Sydney

“Human-COVID-Digital: A More-than-Human Standpoint”

November 2020

• Sneha Narayan, Computer Science, Carleton College

March 2020

University of Minnesota Day of Data 2020

• Amelia McNamara, Computer & Information Sciences , University of St. Thomas

How Spatial Polygons Shape Our World: Geometry, Data, and Perceptions of Truth

September 2019

• Ece Kamar, Adaptive Systems and Interaction Group, Microsoft

The Real Promise of AI: How to Get AI-Human Collaboration to Work

April 2019

• Sorelle Friedler, Data & Society Research Institute, Haverford College

Auditing, Explaining, and Ensuring Fairness in Algorithmic Systems

February 2018

•  10 Questions for Critical Data Studies Workshop

View full schedule of presenters

October 2016


Institute for Advanced Study 5×5 Human in the Data cohort, 2019-2020:

Lucy Fortson, Physics and Astronomy

Richard Landers, Psychology

Thomas Pengo, Informatics Insitute

Benjamin Wiggins, History

Lana Yarosh, Computer Science

The Institute for Advanced Study 5×5 initiative brings together small groups of people from differing disciplinary backgrounds and positions in the University and off-campus communities for a low-stakes, short-term exploration.