NSF S&CC 2019 Annual PI Meeting

2018 Keynote

We are pleased to announce that Peter Norton, associate professor of history in the Department of Engineering and Society at the University of Virginia, will present the keynote for the meeting.

Data don’t drive: Values, history, and connecting communities

As experts, we pride ourselves on our “data-driven” solutions, but ultimately data drive nothing. They guide. Like compass readings, data are indispensable to us as we seek our destination, but they cannot tell us what the destination is. It is tempting to look to data to absolve us of our responsibility to make difficult judgments, but ultimately, we cannot escape this responsibility, and a history we know too little demonstrates the dangers of trying to do so. Indeed, much of our collective effort is to repair the damage our predecessors, with good data and good intentions, committed. We must study the lessons of this history if we are not to repeat these errors. Above all we must reckon with social values, which resist quantification. Humans best express values through stories. Even as experts, therefore, we must develop not only data collection and data analysis skills, but also storytelling and story-listening skills. Such skills will help us better serve the communities we aspire to serve, and help us avoid the costly mistakes that have eroded trust in experts.

Peter Norton

Peter Norton.Peter Norton is associate professor of history in the Department of Engineering and Society at the University of Virginia (USA).  He is the author of Fighting Traffic: The Dawn of the Motor Age in the American City (MIT Press).  His article “Street Rivals: Jaywalking and the Invention of the Motor Age Street,” published in Technology and Culture, won the Abbott Payson Usher Prize of the Society for the History of Technology.  He is a frequent speaker to audiences of transportation professionals, planners and mobility advocates.  He is a member of the University of Virginia’s Center for Transportation Studies and of the Sustainable Urban Mobility project of Technical University Eindhoven (Netherlands).  Norton teaches classes in history of technology and in technology and society.  He is a winner of the Hartfield-Jefferson Scholars Teaching Prize and of the Trigon Engineering Society’s Hutchinson Award “for dedication and excellence in teaching.”