Democracy’s Data: The Hidden Stories in the US Census and How to Read Them
Monday, April 3, 2023, 7:30 PM ET
In an age when we often hear that good governance requires that we depend on good data, it is crucial that everyone (and not just those in quantitative fields) understand and can work to improve the processes that make data from people. Democracy’s Data is a history of the 1940 census that will prepare its readers to examine and critique the data-driven systems that surround us. Published by MCD/Farrar, Straus and Giroux, Democracy’s Data was one of the New York Times’ 100 notable books for 2022.
Dan Bouk researches the history of bureaucracies, quantification, and other modern things shrouded in cloaks of boringness. Bouk studied computational mathematics as an undergraduate at Michigan State, before earning a Ph.D. in history from Princeton University. His work investigates the ways that corporations, states, and the experts they employ have used, abused, made, and re-made the categories that structure our daily experiences of being human.
His first book, How Our Days Became Numbered: Risk and the Rise of the Statistical Individual (Chicago, 2015), explored the spread into ordinary Americans’ lives of the United States life insurance industry’s methods for quantifying people, for discriminating by race, for justifying inequality, and for thinking statistically. Bouk blogs about his on-going research at shroudedincloaksofboringness.com.
Building a History Lab and Finding Wonder in the Boring
Tuesday, April 4, 12:40 PM ET
CTLR (Lib 225 in-person only)
Dan Bouk, Associate Professor and Chair of History, Colgate, created a History Lab for students to contribute research to his recent book on the 1940 Census. Join us for lunch to learn about their collaborative work and to discuss ways in which humanists can learn from and teach with all the stuff “shrouded in cloaks of boringness”: bureaucracies, budgets, censuses, and all sorts of public and private numbers.