Data Intersections 2018

Data Intersections 2018

On March 2nd, 2018, the University of Miami hosted the first Data Intersections symposium. The goal of Data Intersections is to enable a conversation between professionals and scholars from domains that have been deeply transformed by the increasing availability of data and the digital tools used to manipulate it, such as data science, statistics, data journalism, the physical and biological sciences, and the digital humanities.

The premise of the Symposium, according to Alberto Cairo, UM’s Knight Chair in Visual Journalism, director of the Visualization Program at the Institute for Data Science and Computing (IDSC), and part of the organizing committee, is “What if we bring six interesting people who work with data in different fields, we ask them to explain how data has transformed their work, what excites them about that change, and what worries them, and then we have them engage in a dialogue with the audience?”

The speakers at the first edition of Data Intersections were Steve Duenes, deputy managing editor for visuals at The New York Times; Athina Hadjixenofontos, director of engagement at IDSC; Heather Froelich, digital scholarship fellow at Penn State University; Shazna Nessa, director of visuals at the Wall Street Journal; Mahsa Mirzargar, assistant professor at UM’s department of Computer Science; and Thomas Padilla, visiting digital research services librarian at the University of Nevada Las Vegas.

Data Intersections 2018 Shazna NessaAfter the event, the speakers shared their main takeaways. Shazna Nessa said “There was something magical in the fact that speaker after speaker, more and more overlap in our work emerged. For example, we realize that we use very similar tools, that we have a common sense of mission, and require a similar make up of multidisciplinary teams.”

“I came to Data Intersections prepared to be comfortable with interdisciplinary perspectives on data and its uses in journalism, libraries, visualization practice, and communicating complex ideas to a wide audience” said Heather Froelich. “However, I was totally taken aback —in a very positive way— by two big aspects of the Data Intersections conference. Steve Duenes talked about ‘huggable graphs’, human engagement through the use of narrative. The digital humanities often pretends to be presenting an empirical approach to typically subjective interpretation of cultural objects, but often lacks the human connection for readers. The second aspect was the emphasis on collaboration. All the presentations and discussions focused specifically on how the issue of data cannot be a single person’s problem, requiring teams and collaboration to be interpreted from a variety of perspectives.”

Thomas Padilla explained: “For me, Data Intersections was defined by generosity. In university settings, there is often talk about interdisciplinarity but rarely does that talk deliver on its promise. This event surely did. Standing apart it would always be fascinating to learn about data challenges in human genomics, computer science, and The Guardian newsroom. Data Intersections goes a step further, pulling off the singular feat of bringing together perspectives that intentionally seek to build bridges across areas of expertise. We always need more of that.”

“Data Intersections was truly about intersections, including the various forms that they can take,” said Athina Hadjixenofontos.  “Mahsa spoke about multidisciplinary teams where the skills are split between multiple highly specialized people; in contrast, Shazna spoke about interdisciplinary teams in which each person is a true hybrid that combines a set of intersecting areas (reporting, graphics, programming) and is highly skilled in all of them.”

Data Intersections 2018 Mahsa MirzargarMahsa Mirzargar found “It was interesting to learn how similar the challenges are when it comes to dealing with data irrespective of the discipline we work in.’

Cameron Riopelle, a librarian assistant professor at UM Libraries and planning committee member, sums up the experience nicely.  Cameron says “Data Intersections illustrated to the audience and speakers alike how important it is to bring together our interdisciplinary voices so we can continue to develop best critical practices for working in the complex everyday world of data.”



Data Intersections is supported by IDSC, the School of Communication, the Knight Foundation,  UM Libraries, and the College of Arts and Sciences.

Artist Caryn Ginsberg, from Priority Ventures designed sketch notes summarizing the talks:


Data Intersections 2018     Data Intersections 2018 Steve Duenes Data Intersections 2018 Heather Froelich Data Intersections 2018 Athina Hadjixenofontos Data Intersections 2018 Mahsa Mirzargar Data Intersections 2018 Thomas Padilla





Data Intersections 2018 Poster


The Digital Humanities and Data Journalism Symposium was reborn as the “Data Intersections: Dialogues About Data Science, Statistics, Data Journalism,and the Digital Humanities” Conference. A one-day free conference featuring speakers from the fields of data science, statistics, data journalism, and the digital humanities, it was held on Friday, March 2, 2018 (8:30 AM-5:00 PM) at the Newman Alumni Center.

Download Poster  | #dataintersections  @UMCCS @UMCAS  @UMSoC @UMiamiLibraries

Newman Alumni Center (free parking)  Directions + Map  |  6200 San Amaro Drive, Coral Gables, FL 33146



8:00 AM | Registration Opens

8:30-9:00 AM | Welcome Remarks

Steve Duenes, speaker, University of Miami Center for Computational Science, Data Intersections Symposium 2018

9:00-9:45 AM | Steve Duenes

Steve is the Associate Managing Editor at The New York Times, focusing on visualization and multimedia. He manages their award-winning graphics department of about 35 journalists who report, design, and develop the interactive maps, data visualizations, and motion graphics for The Times’s digital platforms. The graphics department is responsible for visual coverage ranging from breaking news stories to long-term multimedia projects.  @Duenes

Athina Hadjixenofontos

9:45-10:30 AM | Athina Hadjixenofontos

Athina  joined CCS in 2016. As the Center’s Director of Engagement, she leads a number of programs that aim to support the development of computational skills and adoption of computational mindsets in various populations. She’s particularly excited by the science part of data science, as it relates to assumptions, bias and their relationship with strong study design. She holds a PhD in computational genetics from the University of Miami John P. Hussman Institute for Human Genomics.  @hadjixenofontos

10:30-11:15 AM | Heather Froehlich

Heather is the Digital Scholarship Fellow in Text Analysis and an Assistant Librarian at Penn State. She was awarded her PhD and MRes from the University of Strathclyde (Glasgow, UK), where she studied representations of social identity in Shakespeare and other Early Modern London plays; before that, she studied English and Linguistics at the University of New Hampshire. She was previously involved with the Mellon-Funded Visualizing English Print 1470-1800 project between Strathclyde, UW-Madison and the Folger Shakespeare Library.  @heatherfro

11:15-11:30 AM | Coffee Break

Mahsa Mirzargar

11:30 AM-12:15 PM | Mahsa Mirzargar

Mahsa Mirzargar, PhD, is an assistant professor at the Computer Science department at the University of Miami. Her area of research encompasses a combination of elements from data science, statistical analysis, and scientific visualization. The overarching goal of her research is to make the best use of advances in these scientific disciplines to design novel and comprehensive data analysis paradigms.  View her Website

12:15-1:30 PM | LUNCH Break (on your own)

Shazna Nessa

1:30-2:15 PM | Shazna Nessa

Shazna joined The Wall Street Journal in March 2017 as Deputy Managing Editor, Global Head of Visuals. She leads the organization’s strategy for visual journalism with oversight of the graphics, photography, design, and news developer teams. Prior to that, Shazna was director of journalism at the Knight Foundation and has held senior positions at the Associated Press and Condé Nast. Shazna was born and raised in London, and graduated from the Sorbonne in Paris with a Bachelor of Arts in French and English. She was a 2008 Sulzberger fellow and a 2014 John S. Knight journalism fellow at Stanford.    @shazna

Thomas Padilla

2:15-3:00 PM | Thomas Padilla

Thomas is Visiting Digital Research Services Librarian at UNLV. He publishes, presents, and teaches widely on Humanities data, data curation, and data information literacy. He is Principal Investigator of the Institute-of-Museum-and-Library-Services-supported Always Already Computational: Collections as Data. He previously held Digital Scholarship, Digital Humanities, and Digital Preservation positions at Michigan State, the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, and the Library of Congress. @thomasgpadilla

3:00-3:30 PM | Coffee Break

3:30-5:00 PM | Discussion with Speakers/Closing Remarks