What You Need to Know about the Cuban Thaw

I wrote an explainer about the Cuban Thaw, which refers to the recent normalization of relations between the US and Cuba. All the gifs in the article were made with a tool that I’m working on called Glyph, which is like an instagram for making details gifs from YouTube videos.

Here’s the story: https://readfold.com/read/sannabh/what-you-need-to-know-about-the-cuban-thaw-CST8k5cg

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Diversity in Tech sees lively discussion at SXSWi

Representation of women and people of color in Silicon Valley has long been cited as a serious problem, but this issue has in recent years been pushed to the center of conversations about technology and society. At this year’s SXSW Interactive, a four day technology conference in downtown Austin, TX, many sessions focussed on diversity in tech, creating spaces at the conference and online for participants to express both optimism and frustration with issues of opportunity and representation in technology.

The Kapor Center for Social Impact, an organization based in Oakland with a venture capital arm that supports work at the intersection of technology and social change, hosted a panel on Saturday called “Beyond the Diversity Data: Strategies That Work” as well as a $500 start-up pitch contest for “seed and pre-seed stage founders of color”.

Sitting on the panel was Lisa Lee, who leads diversity initiatives at Pandora. She addressed the need for a top-down approach to prioritizing diversity as a company. “It’s one thing to have a diversity recruiter reaching out to a group of people. It’s a totally different thing to have your CEO talk about diversity at a company meeting.”

Lee also pointed out geographical problems in recruiting engineers of color, citing that over 60% of black Americans don’t live in the Western region of the United States. “We now look at distance traveled in hiring.”

Echoing Lee’s argument, Makinde Adeagbo, an engineer and head of recruitment at Pinterest, described Silicon Valley’s diversity problem as more than just a pipeline issue that begins and ends in high school and college classrooms, in a session cheekily titled “How to Not Hire and Retain Employees of Color”, also on Saturday. “The number of black engineers in tech companies is still lower than the number of black engineers graduating from top schools.”

Ana Diaz-Hernandez from the Kapor Center also sat on the panel, calling out start-ups who emphasize “culture fit” as a culture of weak internal communication and “mirror-tocracy”.

Audience members jumped in with the panel on twitter with the hashtag “#moreofus. “Personally, I think “culture-fit” is made more complex than it should be, culture should always be evolving, not stagnant,” said Candace Queen, an Austin-based designer, responding to Hernandez.

Across many panels this weekend and scheduled for the coming days of the conference, attendees and speakers are challenging long-held ideas of what Silicon Valley culture looks like.

“Impressive , conference room full of tech savy latino entrepreneur women #latinoTech” tweeted @julianitaM.

The panel “Diversifying the Tech Workforce: Impact at Scale” generated a particularly lively discussion about the need for a culture change in tech. “We will navigate cultural differences to get code from halfway around the world but not from halfway across the city,” said Hank Williams, founder of Kloudco and Platform and a presenter on the panel. “The set of biases triggered by a white kid showing up in an interview in a hoodie is different than a minority kid.”

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Savannah Niles Assignment 2: Prudential Center draws early morning crowds, but not for shopping

While rushing through the Prudential Center early one morning on the way back from a meeting, something surprised me: it was 7 am, and although the stores weren’t open and the doors had just been unlocked, there were many people at the mall.

I returned a few days later to investigate what about the Prudential Center draws so many of Boston’s early risers.

There’s one population that’s here by necessity: many of the malls’ employees arrive hours before stores open to set up window displays, trim the decorative plants lining the mall’s walkways, or work at the renovation in the Boylston/Newbury wing.

Others appeared to likewise be scheduled for an early arrival at the mall. The hotels and office buildings at the mall’s perimeter direct currents of foot traffic through the mall’s wings. FlyWheel, a cycling studio increasingly hyped in cities across the US, also draws a high attendance, with noticeable impact on the mall’s early morning energy: at regular 30 minute intervals, an influx of women in spandex rush to the Belvedere wing. With its sister studio FlyBarre opening at the end of the month, Boston’s fit and trendy will likely be drawn to the Prudential Center in even greater numbers.

Much of the mall’s early occupants are commuters: the Prudential Center Green Line stop opens up to the mall, and its central location serves as a route sheltered from the cold to many Back Bay, Boylston, and Copley destinations. Some commuters seems to prolong their connection through the Prudential Center by stopping from coffee or breakfast at Dunkin Donuts, Starbucks, Teavana Paradise Bakery, the cafes open at the mall before the rest of its stores open. Others seem so comfortably set up on a bench or at a table that it’s hard to tell whether they’re pausing a commute to somewhere else or if this is their destination: in particular, many of the elderly can be seen reading or people-watching inside the mall for hours.

The Prudential Center seems to serve another purpose as a destination rather than a transition space: many visitors, particularly the elderly and parents with children, come simply to walk. With light-filled spaces, a network of routes, and, most importantly, shelter from the elements, the Prudential Center seems to start the day off more like a park than a shopping center.

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Savannah Niles, Assignment 1: Media Diary

Keeping this diary was an exercise that provoked a lot of reflection and questioning of my own habits. In particular, I became very interested in my intake of images as special media units among the endless stream of bits I encounter throughout the day. After a few days of keeping the diary, I noticed that (1) I often clicked on a story rather than just read the headline if the image drew me in, and (2) my entertainment news tended to be more image-heavy than stories of a more serious nature, which tended to be more text-heavy.

Interested in examining the images I encountered when accessing news stories in particular, I mapped images from the news I accessed onto a visualization: http://imgur.com/a/Kphd1. For each article that I actually read (rather than glanced at), I sampled the first or the main image in that story. I then organized these images by day and by time of day— morning, daytime, or nighttime. From this record, I made many observations that weren’t immediately obvious to me when studying my diary, but I want to share two in particular:

1. I tend to access media on a half-day schedule. The images sampled generally reflected the time of day when I was actively surfing news and media, (clicking on links and reading, rather than glancing through headlines or social feeds). Just looking at when and for how long I tended to surf the news made me realize that a typical work day for me is divided into two parts— morning or evening will be dedicated to uninterrupted work, and the other half might see more distracted surfing or reading, where code-shifting is possible. This was a cute insight to me, because just the other day I was talking to someone about the Paul Graham essay on the half-day “maker’s” schedule— I’d be curious to see if others in the class saw a similar division of their time.

2. I see more pictures of women’s faces and bodies than I do of men’s faces and bodies. This was immediately apparent to me when looking at all the images I sampled from my diary. In this small sample alone, there are 7 undressed women pictures and only 1 undressed man. I think this disproportion reflects my own interests in stories about women— a theme I saw across the subject matter of my diary. But my intuition is that it also reflects a broader differences in the ways bodies are depicted in the media.

One last note on the exercise: the experience of looking through this much of my own browsing history was extremely unpleasant: it was truly stimulus overload. This was one of the more surprising observations I drew from the assignment. Culling through links and images at this rate made me feel like my mental “cache” was full, so to speak. I found this reaction really interesting, and it makes me wonder if the multi-tasked, high-speed browsing that I usually do, and that this exercise multiplied, has a comparable but less obvious cognitive effect.

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