Home Artificial Intelligence Using data to put in writing songs for progress

Using data to put in writing songs for progress

Using data to put in writing songs for progress

A 3-year recipient of MIT’s Emerson Classical Vocal Scholarships, senior Ananya Gurumurthy recalls on the brink of step onto the Carnegie Hall stage to sing a Mozart opera that she once sang with the Latest York All-State Choir. The choir conductor reminded her to articulate her words and to interact her diaphragm.

“When you don’t project your voice, how are people going to listen to you if you perform?” Gurumurthy recalls her conductor telling her. “That is your moment, your likelihood to attach with such an amazing audience.”

Gurumurthy reflects on the universal truth of those words as she adds her musical talents to her math and computer science studies to campaign for social and economic justice.

The daughter of immigrants

Growing up in Edgemont, Latest York, she was inspired to fight on behalf of others by her South Asian immigrant parents, who got here to the US within the Eighties. Her father is a management consultant and her mother has experience as an investment banker.

“They got here barely 15 years after the passage of the 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act, which removed national origin quotas from the American immigration system,” she says. “I might not be here if it had not been for the Civil Rights Movement, which preceded each me and my parents.”

Her parents told her about their latest home’s anti-immigrant sentiments; for instance, her father was a graduate student in Dallas exiting a store when he was pelted with glass bottles and racial slurs.

“I often consider the quantity of bravery that it should have taken them to desert all the pieces they knew to immigrate to a brand new, but still imperfect, country in the hunt for something higher,” she says. “Because of this, I actually have all the time felt so grounded in my identity each as a South Asian American and a lady of color. These identities have allowed me to think critically about how I can most effectively reform the institutions surrounding me.”

Gurumurthy has been singing since she was 11, but in highschool, she decided to also construct her political voice by working for Latest York Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins. At one point, Gurumurthy noted a log was kept for the themes of constituent calls, reminiscent of “inexpensive housing” and  “infrastructure,” and it was then that she became aware that Stewart-Cousins would address essentially the most pressing of those callers’ issues before the Senate.

“This experience was my first time witnessing how powerful the mobilization of constituents in vast numbers was for influencing meaningful legislative change,” says Gurumurthy.

After she began applying her math skills to political campaigns, Gurumurthy was soon tapped to run analytics for the Democratic National Committee’s (DNC) midterm election initiative. As a lead analyst for the Latest York DNC, she adapted an interactive activation-competition (IAC) model to grasp voting patterns within the 2018 and 2020 elections. She collected data from public voting records to predict how constituents would solid their ballots and used an IAC algorithm to strategize alongside grassroots organizations and allocate resources to empower historically disenfranchised groups in municipal, state, and federal elections to encourage them to vote.

Research and student organizing at MIT

When she arrived at MIT in 2019 to check mathematics with computer science, together with minors in music and economics, she admits she was saddled with the naïve notion that she would “construct digital tools that would single-handedly alleviate the entire collective pressures of systemic injustice on this country.” 

Since then, she has learned to create what she calls “a more nuanced view.” She picked up data analytics skills to construct mobilization platforms for organizations that pursued social and economic justice, including working in Fulton County, Georgia, with Fair Fight Motion (through the Kelly-Douglas Fund Scholarship) to investigate patterns of voter suppression, and MIT’s ethics laboratories within the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory to construct symbolic artificial intelligence protocols to higher understand bias in artificial intelligence algorithms. For her work on the International Monetary Fund (through the MIT Washington Summer Internship Program), Gurumurthy was awarded second place for the 2022 S. Klein Prize in Technical Writing for her paper “The Rapid Rise of Cryptocurrency.”

“The outcomes of every project gave me more hope to start the subsequent because I could see the impact of those digital tools,” she says. “I saw people feel empowered to make use of their voices whether it was voting for the primary time, protesting exploitative global monetary policy, or fighting gender discrimination. I’ve been really fortunate to see the ability of mathematical evaluation firsthand.”

“I actually have come to comprehend that the constructive use of technology might be a strong voice of resistance against injustice,” she says. “Because numbers matter, and when people bear witness to them, they’re pushed to take motion in meaningful ways.”

Hoping to make a difference in her own community, she joined several Institute committees. As co-chair of the Undergraduate Association’s education committee, she propelled MIT’s first-ever digital petition for grade transparency and worked with faculty members on Institute committees to be sure that all students were being provided adequate resources to take part in online education within the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. The digital petition inspired her to start a project, called Insite, to develop a more centralized digital means of knowledge collection on student life at MIT to higher inform policies made by its governing bodies. As Ring Committee chair, she ensured that the special traditions of the “Brass Rat” were made economically accessible to all class members by helping the committee nearly triple its financial aid budget. For her efforts at MIT, last May she received the William L. Stewart, Jr. Award for “[her] contributions [as] a person student at MIT to extracurricular activities and student life.”

Ananya plans on going to law school after graduation, to check constitutional law in order that she will be able to use her technical background to construct quantitative evidence in cases pertaining to voting rights, social welfare, and ethical technology, and set legal standards ”for the humane use of knowledge,” she says.

“In constructing digital tools for a wide range of social and economic justice organizations, I hope that we are able to challenge our existing systems of power and realize the progress we so dearly must witness. There’s strength in numbers, each algorithmically and organizationally. I imagine it’s our responsibility to concurrently use these strengths to change the world.”

Her ambitions, nevertheless, began when she began singing lessons when she was 11; without her background as a vocalist, she says she can be voiceless.

“Operatic performance has given me the power to really step into my character and convey powerful emotions in my performance. In the method, I actually have realized that my voice is strongest when it reflects my true convictions, whether I’m performing or publicly speaking. I actually imagine that this honesty has allowed me to change into an efficient community organizer. I’d prefer to imagine that this voice is what compels those around me to act.”

Private musical study is accessible for college kids through the Emerson/Harris Program, which offers merit-based financial awards to students of outstanding achievement on their instruments or voice in classical, jazz, or world music. The Emerson/Harris Program is funded by the late Cherry L. Emerson Jr. SM ’41, in response to an appeal from Associate Provost Ellen T. Harris (Class of 1949 professor emeritus of music).


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