DSI 2016 Fall Class

Fundamentals of Design for Social Innovation
Environmental Ethics
Disruptive Design: Research and Insights
Understanding Natural and Social Systems
UX + Social Innovation
Global Guest Lecture Series I
Mapping and Visualization Design

  • Role Graduate Student
  • Type Introduction of Class
  • URL dsi.sva.edu/

Reflection Writing


Reflection Paper about Visualization of Gun Problem in the US

I will write a critical paper about Ted Alcorn. The following is information about him. Ted Alcorn is Director of Innovation at Everytown for Gun Safety, the nation’s largest gun violence research and advocacy organization, which recently issued a comprehensive report entitled Strategies for Reducing Gun Violence in American Cities.
In addition, the following is his career. Ted Alcorn has followed a unique career path since graduating from SAIS. While a student at SAIS, Alcorn pursued a joint degree at the School of Public Health, graduating with an MHS in International Health and an MA in International Policy with a sub-specialization in development economics. “Leaving the labels aside, it amounted to a long (3-year), quant-heavy policy program focused on improving populations’ health and well-being, as measured and implemented through economic, sociological, and immunological interventions,” he said. With a dual Master’s under his belt, Alcorn was awarded the Luce scholarship, which took him to Beijing. There, he produced photo and video work and wrote public health journalism for The Lancet, a British public health magazine. From Beijing, Alcorn moved to New York City to work at the Office of New York mayor Michael Bloomberg. Alcorn worked under the Senior Policy Advisor to the mayor, writing reports and conducting quantitative analysis on public policy issues affecting New York City with statewide and national implications, including firearm policy and immigration reform. Currently, Alcorn works at Everytown for Gun Safety, where he supervises research and investigations for the largest gun violence prevention organization in the country. He also oversees the deployment of evidence to advance life-saving reforms to U.S. gun laws.
When he came as a guest speaker, he said it was worth having tracking the latest information. Also decompose a huge amount of data and reconstitute it simply and clearly. He also said that he could convey the importance of the problem to people who live in society. So I referred to the article and paper which he wrote. Then, it was said that it is possible to reduce the victims by gun shooting by making sure that the rule of background check at the time of purchasing the gun.
So why did he come up with such an idea? Following the articles and papers in chronological order, it turned out that his argument was different from past. So what was the essence of the problem he first defined for him? It was getting understanding of a vast number of victims of gun crime from American citizens by using data visualisation. By doing so, he thought he could form and get a pattern of gun crime and find a solution. I also researched his career and found that he moved to Beijing in China after acquiring a master’s degree in public health and development economics. He was producing photographs and video works in Beijing, these experiences strongly influence the attention to his visualization. In addition, his academic career has a strong influence on his way of thinking. Because area of public health, economy, the structure of Beijing are strongly cooperation with public institutions such as governments is common. In other words, he had much cooperation with upper senior institutions of society. For that reason, it was enough to just convey the real data to change and persuade their thoughts.

However, when he was put in a position to work at the Everytown for Gun Safety organization to supervise investigations afterwards, he faced a big wall aside from the academic concept. That is, it is the study of, “By visualizing the data of problems that are actually happening, it will have unintended consequences. In other words, it goes in the opposite direction to problem solving.” His approach until now could not be applied to people, who are not big public institutions, but a diverse majority of human beings with unpredictable thoughts and behaviors. Why was it so? As a result of the visualization of the sorrow of gun crimes and the number of murder cases by infographic and reporting them, Americans began to possess guns to protect themselves. These results were in opposition to his goals. It is speculated that his initial plan was to stop people from purchasing guns by influencing people’s empathy and sympathy so that people would have the same problem awareness.
Then, what happened after that? He intended to strengthen the US gun regulation with a different approach. In the United States, background checks are mandatory when purchasing guns, but they are not functioning. Guns can be purchased in large shopping centers such as Walmart without background checks quickly. Also, the black market of guns is overflowing, even on the internet. In other words, because the route that guns can be purchased without permission cannot be regulated, the gun market where identity information cannot be tracked becomes a black market. It falls outside the regulation of the government. He said in his lecture that it is difficult to make an accurate database for this reason. So why is a background check necessary? This is because people with a high possibility of randomly firing guns outside their conscious control, such as mentally disabled people and children, can possess guns. In other words, he shifted his purpose from lowering the overall gun holding rate to increasing only those who can control gun utilization by their own judgment. Even In his lecture, he explained by showing the infographic of gun crimes which could be caused by children unintentionally shooting
Tools he uses to change society have not changed from data and visualization. However, the mindset, such as which data is handled properly, which layer to commit to, and what the essential purpose is, continues to change. He is currently working on data visualization that will function as strong evidence against public institutions dealing with law, not for the purpose of promoting action through understanding from the people. Also, he explained at the end of his lecture that people’s stories will appear through visualization of data. He explained stories of people who have been killed by guns in his lectures, and made an infographic website publishing stories of people who have been killed unintentionally categorized by state. Based on what was mentioned above, he will use the correct information as a tool to approach public institutions such as the government and the state legislature using visualization as evidence. From here, he came to use visualization as a tool to find patterns, evoke people’s empathy, and convey stories that change people’s consciousness. It is a sufficiently effective logic from the viewpoint of how people with disabilities are involved with society, which will be the theme of my thesis next year.
From his efforts, I found out that the creation of value is rediscovering the essence of a problem.