UCLIC Research Seminar Series
Spreadsheets are the world's most popular and influential software for data analysis. What makes them so unique? In this talk, I trace the history of tabular data from its Bronze age origins to the modern electronic spreadsheet. You'll learn about the spreadsheet wars of the 1980s and 1990s, of infamous spreadsheet errors and how people tried to avoid them (in some cases, by rewriting genetics). You'll learn why the grid, with all its flaws and error-proneness remains the undisputed king of data organisation. We'll speculate about how AI will transform spreadsheets, and indeed, whether spreadsheets will even be necessary in an AI future. We'll visit the wild and zany e-sport of competitive spreadsheeting, gaze at museum-worthy spreadsheet art, and listen to programmatic spreadsheet music. In closing, I will explain why spreadsheets need to be a truly universal technology, and what barriers stand in the face of making a globally inclusive and diverse spreadsheet technology.
The speaker is visiting UCL and the seminar will take place in room 405, 66-72 Gower Street. This is a hybrid event and online access will be available via Zoom ucl.zoom.us/j/99975206216.
Advait Sarkar has spent the last 10 years of his life studying spreadsheets. Why on earth has he done such a strange thing? Advait is a human-computer interaction researcher interested in AI and tools for understanding data. He is also interested in the history and philosophy of science, anthropology, education, literary criticism, postcolonial studies, and media theory, and tries to incorporate as wide a discourse as possible into his research ("A little knowledge is a dangerous thing", warns Alexander Pope, but no-one ever does anything interesting by playing it safe...). He is a senior researcher at Microsoft, an affiliate lecturer at the University of Cambridge, and honorary lecturer at UCL. To learn more about his work, visit advait.org.