By Mrinal Gokhale
Social media has become a powerful tool for the data science field over the years, and the Northwestern Mutual Data Science Institute is now merging politics and big data for a project dedicated to the DNC in Milwaukee.
Amber Wichowsky, an associate professor in the Department of Political Science at Marquette University, said there are millions of online mentions on the 2020 election per month, and that doesn’t include the impeachment trial.
“Since we’re here at the DNC Summit, one thing we’re excited about is, as we head towards the national convention here…how are people talking about Milwaukee online?” said Wichowsky.
Wichowsky is partnering with the Northwestern Mutual Data Science Institute to study this subject. She was one of three panelists that spoke during this discussion at the CommUNITY Growth Summit on Feb. 12 at Northwestern Mutual.
This panel discussion, Data Science: A Democratizing Force for Communities, was one of three that took place this day, organized by the Milwaukee 2020 Host Committee and gener8or, a local startup accelerator.
“If Milwaukee is going to be in the national headlines in the convention, I’d expect some insights that our students will be producing in terms of how delegates experience our city, how others react to our city that are seeing it on screen, but also people who live here.”
Purush Papatla, co-director of the Northwestern Mutual Data Science Institute, said that traditional and social media and advertisements will be analyzed to gain big data insights on what drives voter behavior and what issues are on voter minds for 2020.
“We’re looking at ads as data; we’re looking at online and social media data,” he said. “Polling can only be done at certain times and takes time to get data back. This approach will give us data on an ongoing basis, every second of every day.”
Papatla is a professor at the Lubar School of Business at University of Wisconsin Milwaukee. He said that his students, along with students from Marquette, will partner in this study. He added that the “DNC project” is ongoing.
“We’ll keep posting findings from the project on an ongoing basis,” said Papatla. “The plan is that analysis and updates will continue through the end of elections, and depending on technology and the method we develop, we may go beyond that.”
The Walnut Way Data Dream is another project in the works by the Institute. Antonio Butts of the Walnut Way Conservation Group was the third panelist in this discussion. He stated that the Walnut Way Data Dream Project is designed to analyze housing disparities in Milwaukee’s Lindsay Heights neighborhood.
“In this neighborhood, the average value of a property is $35,000,” he said. “Coming from 10
years ago when we had an economic downturn until today, not much has changed in terms of economic mobility overall.”
He said that over 20 years, there has been tremendous data collected, and this project has two streams of work emerging.
“One is where we just aggregate all data and do a real analysis with key insights and recommendations to move forward,” Butts said.“The second stream of work is really focused on how we have forward working tools to help us function or to provide early warning around challenges individual homeowners, renters, and commercial corridors face overall.”
He said that with data science, the Institute will be able to find public information such tax property values in real time.
“If we can set up a dashboard to see this information in real time, we know where to direct resources and get to operate more efficiently with our work.”
This panel took place for about an hour, and was followed by two more: Keeping the Faith: Bridging Religious Divides to Build Stronger Communities and Music from the Neighborhood: Fireside Chat with Al Bell and Paul Riser Sr.