For the Creative Reactions / Pint of Science event I was paired with David Spiegelhalter, a British statistician and Winton Professor of the Public Understanding of Risk in the Statistical Laboratory at the University of Cambridge and a Fellow of Churchill College, Cambridge. Before I had a chance to meet him, he introduced his talk titled 'Communicating Risk and Uncertainty' through the following excerpt:
“None of us know what is going to happen, but sometimes we can put reasonable chances on what the future holds in store. Communicating these numerical risks is not straightforward, although research suggests the idea of 'expected frequencies' can be effective. People are willing to accept uncertainty about the future but, in this supposedly 'post-truth' world, will 'experts' be suspected if they admit uncertainty about what is happening now? I will look at some recent promising research on communicating uncertainty about numbers or scientific hypotheses without losing trust and credibility.”
Finding this a little too abstract to understand fully, I asked David to elaborate more so that I could create a well informed and meaningful piece. Luckily, he was happy to meet up and share more information with me regarding his subject.
I found David’s enthusiastic energy infectious as he shared with me what he does. What I found especially intriguing was that his real interest lies with us not knowing what his happening right now or even in the past. He spoke about the possible past and the uncertainty about the present; how things are reported as fact that are not. What I understood from David is that his vision is to have clarity of information, openness and honesty about what is known through the data that is collected and the mathematical models that analyse them. His belief is that this honesty of communication will lead to data literacy. Moreover, more accuracy of information about both the past as well the present leads to better informed choices. David Spiegelhalter emphasised a focus on empowering people.
I asked David to share with me how he envisioned this happening and to go more into detail. At the end of our conversation, I found myself inspired and enlightened yet the concepts spoken about still appeared abstract in my mind’s eye. I did not know how I would communicate everything I had gathered from our conversation through art, so I decided that I would allow my process of creation to be lead by my intuition. I allowed my creative interpretation to remain abstract and dreamlike, to pay homage to the magic that I experienced when listening to David Spiegelhalter communicate his ideas.
In my painting, I’m highlighting the concept of having a possible past, an idea of where we may be in the present and the paths that may lead from there. I am placing a further emphasis on having full availability of data in the present and the opportunity to have this information be accurately interpreted so that it could lead to a better grasp of the possible paths that can be taken in the future.
Though I did not finish my painting on time for it to be dry enough to take to the pub where David's talk was held, I was able to take a photograph of it and show it through the use of a projectior. I did exhibit the painting later on that week during the Creative Reactions Exhibition held at St. Barnabas Church. Below are some photos taken during the opening evening of this exhibition. On the right side of the top most photograph you can see my painting. In the next few weeks, I will add some more finishing to it.