Information R/evolution! (+ CHEAP weekend festivities)

I spent about half my working hours in the past week sitting in meetings, the goal of which were to streamline data collection and analysis for the Adult Education and Job Training programs. Currently these comprise an ugly, unwieldy mass of forms, binders, ridiculously slow data entry and retrieval using second-rate software, all to produce practically meaningless results. It makes you simultaneously angry, tired, and oh so profoundly uninterested in data collection.

THE PROBLEM: Teachers don’t keep good records, the data-entry system is archaic and under-staffed, documents have to be filed and stored in multiple locations because of limited space…etc.

THE PROPOSED SOLUTION: Pretty much everyone at these meetings kept talking about how we need to get more data entry people on staff, organize workshops and seminars to educate teachers and students about the importance of accurate data, call the makers of our shitty database software for support…etc.

THE ACTUAL SOLUTION: If teachers and counselors had a digital, web-based system that they could access themselves, then they could collect and enter meaningful data, monitor students’ progress, and we could give funders an accurate idea of what kind of service we’re actually providing. The essential problem is that we’re stuck in this mire of having to have hard copies of everything, which inevitably limits the way we can organize and interpret information.

This video gives you an idea what I mean (thanks to Jenny):

If you happened to have read Marshall McLuhan’s “Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man”, you’re familiar with this idea that media “shape and re-shape the ways in which individuals, societies, and cultures perceive and understand the world.” Of course McLuhan did his PhD work at Cambridge in the 1930’s under formalist giants I.A. Richards and F.R. Leavis who famously promoted the idea that the words of a poem, the language itself should be the subject of study because text actually shaped context. Funnily enough, this idea can be applied to the way that the actual textual quality of the data we collect in the Adult Ed program influences the way that the program is (dis)organized.

ANYWAY, a terrific President’s Day weekend so far; chilling with co-worker types, talking copious nonsense, reuniting with long lost friends. Given that this is NYC, all this fun was had for unbelievably cheap. Consider some stats:

$5 for 30 hand-made dumplings (thanks to Family Dumpling), 120 dumplings purchased, 5 people = a marvelously gluttonous Friday night. Gloriously simple “dump cake” for dessert.

$2.99 for a bottle of quaffable wine (thanks to Trader Joe’s Wine Shop), 8 or so bottles purveyed (thanks to David), 7 people = an uproarious Saturday evening. I also migrated to a refreshingly affordable East Village watering hole for more fun and “I haven’t seen you since graduation!”s


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