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July 28, 2013

Endevours into Personal Data


Ryan Murphy: World Economic Forum – Rethinking Personal Data Project

Enjoying the New York art scene - MOMA PS1

Enjoying the New York art scene – MOMA PS1

Hello again from the Big Apple! The weather is finally starting to settle down (temperature wise) as the things continue to move along quickly at the Forum.

At this stage I am seven weeks into the fellowship with about four left to go. I have managed to adjust well to the Forum environment, though I come from a remarkably different background. It is always exciting to explain what I am doing (to the extent that I know) to those around me, and overall people are fascinated that a designer is working within an organization dominated by business/policy backgrounds.

Since it has been a decent amount of time since my last blog post (many apologies), I will start by summarizing the work I have been up to these past few weeks. My job can essentially be broken down into three parts: day to day process/visualization work, long-term design project(s), and Microsoft UI/UX collaboration. I will address these three elements below.

Everyday life at the Forum is more or less ruled by conference calls, ranging anywhere from consultants and partners to Steering Board members and project working groups. Since the Forum is fundamentally a convening agency, the calls are vitally important to keeping partner organizations and leaders in the loop with our current work. Communicating our core message across quickly can sometimes be a struggle, given the global language of monotonous PowerPoint decks. So a core element of my work thus far has been breaking down our project (Rethinking Personal Data) into it’s simplest elements, and framing how these points can most effectively be shared and debated.

At this stage of the Forum’s Personal Data project, the key objective is to bring together the business, legal, and policy experts (of big data privacy, governance, rights, etc.) with real world practitioners who are using big data and personal data to solve social and commercial challenges. Bringing together these two different groups (both fundamental to the success of the project) and leveraging their insights in a clear and focused way is not easy, but has been a great opportunity for integrating my design background.

Bringing together the industry experts and real world practitioners

Bringing together the industry experts and real world practitioners

The second portion of my work (long-term design project(s)) stems naturally from this connection of industry experts with real world practitioners. I am developing an animated video and accompanying interactive website that will launch the Forum’s various events and workshops centered around big data / personal data. It is one thing to engage various communities over a few months of work and research, and another to make the most of 70 minutes with these communities gathered at a Forum event. The short, four minute video that I am putting together will give a quick overview of the complex and changing landscape of personal data and provide a focused avenue for discussion on long-term strategies for responsibly managing and benefiting from this data. So along with the day-to-day conference calls and process work, I have been working on this longer-term project which will be showcased at both AMNC (Annual Meeting of New Champions) and Davos (the annual World Economic Forum convening) this upcoming year.

In addition, I have been engaging in ongoing research with Microsoft around internet privacy concerns. Ipsos conducted a global quantitative study (through Microsoft’s Technology Policy Group) which looks at personal data management attitudes and behaviors in eight different countries. Microsoft is analyzing this data in order to gain insight into the cultural differences of personal data (how it is perceived, valued, shared, etc.). My role in their research, in collaboration with the World Economic Forum, is to look at how these insights can be addressed in user experience design. 

Can we tailor an interface and experience to a user depending on their attitudes towards personal data?

How do we communicate the idea that individuals are both producers and consumers of this data?

For example, if I am letting my wireless provider collect and analyze my geolocation information, I expect value or benefits in return, such as improved network efficiency for my mobile device. Through the funding of the Maharam Fellowship, I have the opportunity to fly out to Seattle to work directly with Microsoft on this research/design, which I will be doing at the end of this upcoming week.

Lastly, I have been undertaking some side jobs on some of the Forum’s other projects. I am working in the same area as the Cyber Resiliency group (which, like Personal Data, is in the ICT division), and so have been developing some similar process graphics/visualizations as well as logo/branding for their initiatives. I am trying to remain as focused on the personal data project as possible, but it is evident that the other groups are getting jealous of the work I have been doing! Just about everyone wants a RISD creative thinker working on their team now.

I think that just about wraps it up for now. I will post some more updates from my upcoming trip out West in the next week or two!

Cheers from New York,


P.S. Here are some more photos from life in the city!

Panorama of Bryant Park

Panorama of Bryant Park

New York Philharmonic in Central Park!

New York Philharmonic in Central Park!

Little Italy!

Little Italy!

Drawing on napkins in some of New York's finest coffee shops

Drawing on napkins in some of New York’s finest coffee shops

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