Site-specifics, Stat 160/260
Through this year-long seminar, students will track the invisible flows of data through the greater Los Angeles metropolitan area. The course takes its name from its focus on a small number of specific sites situated prominently in both the physical and virtual (data) spaces. Students will begin by documenting the kinds of data that originate, terminate or simply route through each location. We examine why data are created, studying the motivations and incentives driving measurement, analysis and archiving. We then consider how data are processed (from the informal to the graphical and computational) as well as the decisions that are made and actions that are taken on the basis of these data (whether they be human or automated responses). Through this process, we will uncover patterns of data acquisition and analysis that dictate our behaviors, enable or restrict our movements, and, in essence, shape our local community. In the last phase of the course, students will imagine alterations or additions to these data flows that could improve the quality of life for inhabitants of, or visitors to, the sites. By making tangible, and perhaps positively manipulable, the roles of observation, measurement, data archiving, and statistical analysis, we hope to create opportunities for community-based research within Los Angeles County.
Proposed sites
The first round of sites will include both small- and large-scale enterprises. Each of the candidates in the list below is simply a placeholder for the kind of site that might be interesting to study. Obviously part of our work in the first weeks of the course involve identifying appropriate contacts and the feasibility of a long-term investigation.
  • A high school in the LA Unified School District
  • A hospital in LA County
  • A neighborhood watch program in LA County
  • A national retail chain's local franchise
  • Disneyland
  • The Metropolitan Transit Authority
  • Los Angeles International Airport
  • The Los Angeles Times
  • USGS
  • LA Philharmonic
  • LA Parks and Recreation
  • The LAPD
  • The Port of Los Angeles
Course    Statistics 160/260
Tues/Thurs 4:15-5:30
LaKretz 101

Instructor    Mark Hansen
8951 Mathematical Sciences Building

Wiki    We are collecting information about each site in an evolving document. Interviews will form the basis for a book.