I created an account on pinterest these days, as soon as I knew that Jure Leskovec, a big name on big data is the new pinterest’s chief scientist. I was excited to see how his work would progressively change a platform.
My first impression was horrible, not to say terrifying. There was an entry selection for gender, as soon as a click on female, suddenly all these images of clothing, fashion, cooking, marriage poped up on my screen. I felt so disturbed that for a second I didn’t know what to do, I even felt embarrassed for something I didn’t do (horrible socially constructed feeling). I searched for a place where I could select my interests and among the list of things they offered me in this search, I couldn’t find engineering, science, physics. Yes, I found dance and ballet there. It was something. Scrolling down, again, again, and again, and nothing. I had to use the search tool and type engineering, science, etc, one by one.
Well, I was confused and disturbed but finally my feed looked like something I could relate with. But, one of these days, I receive, by e-mail, a suggestion of trends supposedly design for my interests and (again) supposedly using tools of data science. The results was this:
Tips for cleaning, recipes etc. Don’t take me wrong, as an independent human being, I do like those things but I do not consume them as information.
If in the beginning I was curious about the results of Jure’s work on it, now I wish him good luck. Whatever data processing they have there, it’s garbage, it’s gender centered and sexist. I’m mad. I think I won’t wait improvements to come, even if I love the street art pictures, science anecdotes, ballet pictures etc.
We need better data science! All technical decisions are also political, therefore we need to keep discussing privacy and respect, otherwise we will end up in a fugazzi cloud of information, which will require new spam detection tolls to filter them out. (uhh… looks good… data science creating the next generation of data science jobs, now I get it). And yes, by the way, we should finally design tools that do not require gender definition whatsoever.