Tag: writing

Paper – “If Communication is a Bridge, Cryptography is a Drawbridge: A Stage-Based Model of Communication Processes” (ICA 2022)

Charles Berret

This paper presents a model of communication based on the conditions of its success and failure. Building on Peters’ metaphor of communication as both a bridge and a chasm, the model depicts cryptography as a drawbridge to selectively choose the audience of a message. The model forms a set of islands linked by a series of drawbridges, each representing a source of communication’s success or failure, and each of which must be passed in sequence. The first drawbridge is recognition, in which the most basic source of failed communication is to be unaware that a message is even present. The next is access, in which some form of barrier or lack of authorization keeps one from accessing a message. Next is legibility, the ability to recognize individual symbols, followed by intelligibility, the recognition of coherent patterns, words, and syntax in those symbols. The final two stages of this model concern different stages of meaning. The public meaning of a message is the literal, surface sense intended to be understood without insinuation or ambiguity. The private meaning of a message is either selectively encoded for a specific audience, or else fully interior to our own minds. The descriptive and explanatory power of this model is illustrated through various examples in which communication is secret, secure, and otherwise selective of its audience.

Paper – Iceberg Sensemaking: A Process Model for Critical Data Analysis and Visualization” (arXiv 2022)

Charles Berret and Tamara Munzner

We offer a new model of the sensemaking process for data science and visual analytics. Whereas past sensemaking models have been built on theoretical foundations in cognitivism and positivism, this model adopts interpretivist foundations in order to reframe data sensemaking in humanistic terms. We identify five key principles centered on the concept of schemas: Tacit and Explicit Schemas, Schemas First and Always, Data as a Schematic Artifact, Schematic Multiplicity, and Sensemaking Over Time. Our model uses the analogy of an iceberg, where data is the visible tip of the schema underneath it. The analysis process iteratively refines both the data and its schema in tandem. We compare the roles of schemas in past sensemaking models and draw conceptual distinctions based on a historical review of schemas in different philosophical traditions. We validate the descriptive, predictive, and explanatory power of our model through four analysis scenarios: uncovering data injustice, investigating official data, teaching data wrangling, and producing data mashups.


Paper – “Knowing Together: An Experiment in Collaborative Photogrammetry” (Leonardo 2019)

Rosalie Yu and Charles Berret

Knowing Together is a collection of sculptures designed to explore collaborative techniques for capturing three-dimensional images. Thirty-five participants collectively created these images by forming circles and passing a camera around. These images were stitched together to form 3D models whose distortions are preserved as artifacts attesting to their creation process, suggesting novel approaches to photogrammetry that do not treat photorealism as its ideal quality.

Journalism – “Newsrooms are making leaking easier and more secure than ever” (CJR 2017)

As a break from dissertation writing, I accepted an invitation from the editors of the Columbia Journalism Review to write an article revisiting last year’s Tow Center report on the use of SecureDrop in newsrooms. Here in the early months of the Trump presidency, all indications point to an incredible surge in the use of secure whistleblowing tools among Washington insiders hoping to contact journalists anonymously. A handful of my sources not only confirmed that this is the case, but also offered some sense of how they’ve coordinated this growing stream of information. Find the article here.