Beth Noveck Stresses Open Information in NMDD Speaker Series


On Thursday, Feb. 12, at 5 p.m., the New Media and Digital Design (NMDD) program held the first of a series of speakers dedicated to the new interdisciplinary program with Beth Noveck, former Deputy Chief Technology Officer for the White House and the founder of the Open Government Initiative. In her presentation, Noveck stressed the importance of learning to work with data and open information. “These skills will help you be a citizen and build a stronger and more robust society,” she said.

The presentation, entitled “Government with the People: Digital Media and Re/designing Government,” talked about Noveck’s work with government data transparency. Amy Aronson, director of the New Media and Digital Design program, said, “Noveck became a digital pioneer in a policy world.”

Noveck said in her presentation that her initial goal in entering the government “was to create the ‘Open Government Initiative’” in three steps.

The first step toward a participatory government is opening up data and information to the public, according to Noveck. This follows her ‘Open Government Initiative’, which was “kick-started by a memorandum signed by President Obama in his first days of office,” she said. The second step Noveck noted “was using data to analyze problems and spot problems in new ways.” According to Noveck, this would be accomplished by turning the data into a “data visualization map … it could be used for example in finding where a high frequency of asthma attacks are occurring [in New York City].”

“Even now, New York City has a job called the chief analytics officer,” Noveck continued. This person would use collected data as a “predictive” as well, “like by using data to determine when there is someone who may be likely to re-enter the hospital for treatment,” she said.

Her third and final “step” was asking for participation from an informed citizenry, saying sharing “private data like Twitter … telling government offices about problems, helps form a participatory government.” Noveck used the example of an iPhone app called “PulsePoint” which alerted users if they were near a person in need of resuscitation. “These people can respond faster than the cities medical responders,” she said.

She closed the event by telling the six students present of how to effectively use digital design and what was the takeaway from the event. She said, “We live in an era of participatory government, so actually look for a way to participate.”

The presentation itself had a link to Fordham College at Lincoln Center (FCLC), according to Aronson. “[Noveck] comes from a journalistic family, this presentation itself is in memory of her uncle, Joseph Dembo, who taught here at Lincoln Center.”

Joseph Dembo, visiting professor emeritus in the communications and media studies department, passed away in 2010. He previously taught the “Ethical Issues in Media” course at FCLC, which is now one of the choices for a required “perspectives” course in the New Media and Digital Design major.