Summer Centered: Matthew Ridley ’19 Sees Data Creatively
The history major with a concentration in Latin American, Iberian, and Latino Studies is applying quantitative data and analysis to the humanities at DataArts.
History major Matthew Ridley ’19 focuses his studies on the past, but the rising senior is not afraid to bring the discipline into the present.
Ridley is spending the summer as an intern with DataArts, a digital humanities organization that works to compile quantitative data that is used as a resource for other arts and culture organizations.
Sponsored by the John B. Hurford ’60 for the Arts and Humanities, Ridley is able to build on his prior experiences with quantitative data at his internship this summer.
"My initial experiences with data came through [computer science course] "Topics in Introductory Programming" and the Digital Scholarship Fellowship,” said Ridley. “During both, I used spreadsheet entries to answer questions about the leading causes of death by race in New York and 18th-century Quaker mental health respectively. At DataArts, I am doing similar work, this time utilizing data to answer important questions about interns, museums, and budget sizes within the arts and humanities.”
"Although my history major and subsequent humanities internships have developed my qualitative research skills,” he said, “I specifically sought out DataArts as a means to challenge my analytical and quantitative capabilities while still working within a topic of interest: the arts.”
Ridley is enjoying the opportunity to challenge the notion that humanities majors cannot explore quantitative work in addition to the career possibilities that are traditionally ascribed to the discipline.
"Adaptability is super important,” said Ridley of his work in this field. “If you want to do something completely left-field, then do it. Figure out what it takes and then leverage your previous experiences into what separates you from the rest.”
A combination of data spreadsheets and statistical programming language practice keeps Ridley busy at DataArts, but the lessons he has learned will help inform his career path long beyond this summer.
"Going forward, I am definitely interested in seeking opportunities that involve data entry and performing data-based research,” he said. “As of now, I am invested into searching careers related to government, technology, and public policy. This internship has shown me how accessible data work can be to a humanities major, and that I actually am capable of doing the work using what I have learned at Haverford.”