Category Archives: MSc Data Science

US elections: Goldsmiths data science research links voting habits with sickness & death


A new dissertation by MSc Data Science student Caroline Butler highlights the relationship between health and politics in the USA.

MSc Data Science student Caroline Butler has been investigating whether there is a relationship between mortality among middle-aged white Americans, social and economic well-being, and the 2016 presidential primary election outcomes at county-level.

Her research suggests that middle-aged white Americans living in counties with higher death rates are more cautious voters. That is, they are more likely to vote for a safe bet over a wildcard such as Trump.

After analysing data from the United States Center for Disease Control’s WONDER tool, the United States Census Bureau’s County QuickFacts, and the Kaggle forum, 2016 US Election, Caroline discovered a pattern connecting death rates to voting.

Contrary to expectations, a one unit increase in the all-cause mortality rate increased log odds of Hillary Clinton winning in that county’s Democratic presidential election primary by 1.5693 compared to Bernie Sanders. However, this result could have been skewed by Bernie Sanders’ younger fan base.

To Caroline’s surprise, a one unit increase in the all-cause mortality rate decreased log odds of Donald Trump winning his primary in a county by 1.4371.

The project was inspired by recent evidence that drug and alcohol poisoning, suicide and chronic liver diseases have caused the mortality rate among middle-aged white people in the United States to increase. At the same time, anti-establishment candidates, such as Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders, have achieved unexpected success.

In a follow-up investigation to her project, Caroline ran her data on mortality, socio-economic status of a county, and which state the counties were in through the CHAID machine learning algorithm, and found that with 85-89% accuracy, you could predict who would win the primary for each political party.

Her results suggest that for both white people and all races combined, the social and economic well-being of a county is as much related to the outcomes of the 2016 primary election as the mortality rates of middle aged Americans is.

“Understanding whether mortality data for middle-aged white Americans is associated with political viewpoints is important not only from a political perspective, but also for purposes of developing appropriate public health directives,” Caroline explains.

“I was surprised to find that in areas with higher mortality rates, people were more likely to vote for Clinton over Sanders in the primaries – but I’d suggest this could be because Sanders had a high number of young, so generally more healthy, voters.

“A similar study should definitely be done for the United States Presidential Election so we can compare the voting patterns from the Democratic Party to the votes from the Republican Party.”

Adapted from a Goldsmiths news article by Sarah Cox

Call for papers/demos: Making and Inventing in Digital Culture

lisa1King’s College London have issued a call for papers and demonstrations for CHArt 2015 conference, part of this year’s Arts & Humanities Festival 2015: Fabrication.

The festival is an annual event which showcases research and features a range of events including exhibitions, performances, lectures, readings, roundtables, debates, film screenings, Q&A sessions and guided walks.

This year’s theme is The Fabrication of Art and Beyond: Making and Inventing in Digital Culture. The CHArt 2015 conference wishes to explore what digital and network technologies mean for the intersection of art and fabrication. CHArt invites theoretical papers and demonstrations of academic and artistic work addressing – metaphorically or literally – questions of the fabrication, meaning and value of art as viewed through the various lenses of digital practices and technologies across a variety of genres.

Themes might include:

  • The making of art and the use of digital technologies in its fabrication.
  • Artifice: art as trickery or deception.
  • Art as experimentation and innovation: creating new methods, ideas, or products.
  • The value of art and its falsification: originality, authenticity and authentication.
  • Art and falsity: can art be false?
  • Art and fabrication: legal and ethical constraints, implications and consequences.
  • Art as innovation or invention?
  • Wearable art: digitally and network enabled fabrics.
  • Art and the arrival of the unforeseeable.
  • Art and the skill of fabrication in digital culture.

Contributions are welcome from all sections of the CHArt community: art historians, artists, archaeologists, architects and architectural theorists and historians, philosophers, archivists, museum professionals, curators, conservators, educators, scientists, cultural and media theorists, content providers, technical developers, users and critics. Postgraduate students are encouraged to submit a proposal.

Submissions should be in the form of a 300-400 word synopsis of the proposed paper or demonstration, with brief biographical information (no more than 200 words) of presenter/s, and should be emailed to by Tuesday 14 April 2015.

More blurb

Art intersects with fabrication. Art as a site of making has been drastically affected by digital and network technologies. The border between being online and offline, if one still exists, has become blurred. This has implications for the ways in which diverse elements are combined to create art. Yet, fabrication also means to devise or construct something new and – more troublingly – to fake and to forge.

Does art involve simply the innovation of changes in what is already established by introducing new methods, ideas, or products? Perhaps more radically it should be understood as that which disrupts what previously was or could be known and invites the arrival of what was unforeseen? What are the implications for art of digital technologies, which enhance the possibilities for it to operate through illusion, manipulation, subversion, and falsification? Or is art is an event where truth is displaced by invention?

Postgraduate students are encouraged to submit a proposal. CHArt can offer assistance with the conference fees for up to four student delegates. Priority will be given to postgraduate students whose proposals are accepted for presentation. An application form and proof of university enrolment will be required. For further details about the Helene Roberts Bursary please email

CHArt | Computers and the History of Art ( was established in 1985. CHArt’s mission is to examine and raise awareness of innovative digital techniques that support the study, administration, curation and display of all forms of art and design. CHArt acts as an independent forum for new discussion. The scope of CHArt is necessarily broad to encompass all aspects of the history of art and design, but is also constrained by a focus on how technology supports engagement with this field. Membership of CHArt is open to anyone, but CHArt particularly welcomes those who devise, use, support, research or teach relevant digital processes.

BIG DATA and algorithmic abstractions

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‘The era of ubiquitous computing and big data is now firmly established, with more and more aspects of our everyday lives being mediated, augmented, produced and regulated by digital devices and networked systems powered by software. Software is fundamentally composed of algorithms — sets of defined steps structured to process data to produce an output. And yet, to date, there has been little critical reflection on algorithms, nor empirical research into their nature and work’ – Rob Kitchin

On December 11th 2014 Rob Kitchin will present his paper ‘Thinking critically about and researching algorithms’ in the RHB Cinema at Goldsmiths from 11:00am – 1:00pm.

His paper will begin with an introduction to what constitutes an ‘algorithm’, how they function, and outline the numerous tasks that they now perform in our society. He will address the short fallings of our understandings of algorithms, both in their formulaic structure and their operations in the world and how they are affected by interactions with other algorithms and users.

Critiquing the way in which scientists and technologists would usually present algorithms as ‘purely formal beings of reason’ Rob will discuss how they can transform into ‘abstract entities’ in which their work is often ‘out of control’.

‘…they are: often ‘black boxed’; heterogeneous, often contingent on hundreds of other algorithms, and are embedded in complex socio-technical assemblages; ontogenetic and performative…’

Often the work of many different hands and processes and dispersed across vast networks algorithms become difficult to decode and find their point of origin. They could be considered ‘emergent and constantly unfolding’.

How to govern their nature and work, although difficult, should be considered urgent, with a greater certainty about how ‘algorithms exercise their power over us’.

The lecture will address these concerns and suggest how we may approach researching algorithms through several different access points including: examining source code, reverse engineering and unpacking the wider socio-technical assemblages and examining how algorithms do work in the world.