Failing to Think Past the Surface

One of the biggest dangers (as well as areas of opportunity) of this era is in presentation– all things design, branding, and packaging.

Opportunity: use data, design, and language to keep things simple enough to understand, complex enough to not miscontrue beauty for truth.

Danger: lazy design that looks great and has an immediate takeaway, but upon further inspection, doesn’t pass muster.

Example: “Your Taste in Music Can Reveal How Smart (or Dumb) You Are”

A data experiment looks at Facebook “favorite music” listings by a big sample of college students, then compares this favorite music to these students’ SAT scores:

music taste

A Dangerous Assumption Gone Unexplained

Was this sample size controlled for socioeconomic status or race/ethnicity? To say that listening to Lil’ Wayne makes you dumb is ridiculous. Perhaps the cultural space where Lil’ Wayne music is played (rap stations) also belongs to marginalized communities who are poor and don’t have access to the best schools/education/SAT classes. In which case Lil’ Wayne != Radiohead for reasons more than just “intelligence.” Which means you can’t really make any meaningful conclusions about the world based on this graph.

I will dig into the methodology and see what’s up, but as this visualization is making rounds, I don’t see any mention of how these data points were compiled.


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