Plenary: "Data into Action" | MIT Center for Civic Media

Plenary: "Data into Action"

Our lives are increasingly mediated by computers and data – a shift that is becoming more and more natural to us. From to real-time municipal bus information, data in many forms from many sources is being made available and recombined in ways we could not have anticipated just ten years ago, when everyone used the phone book, and when restaurant and movie reviewers numbered in the tens not the tens of thousands.

The value of data is in its ability to inform or to enable decision and action. Yet data can be generated, stored, and used in ways that do this well or poorly. While data visualization becomes more popular as a field, it is still an essentially rhetorical practice, able to influence people or engender action, but only to the degree that it is leveraged in a larger sociopolitical framework. In other words, does the data come from a trusted source? Is it collected in a sound manner? Is its release timely and influential? Is it embedded in a good story?

For this panel we bring together three expert data wranglers to discuss the question: How do we design data to help communities pursue their interests?


  • Nick Grossman (bio) is Director of Civic Works at OpenPlans. He oversees development of new products around smart transportation, open municipal IT infrastructure, participatory planning, and local civic engagement.
  • Ellen Miller (bio) is the co-founder and executive director of the Sunlight Foundation, a Washington-based, non-partisan non-profit dedicated to using the power of the Internet to catalyze greater government openness and transparency. She is the founder of two other prominent Washington-based organizations in the field of money and politics – the Center for Responsive Politics and Public Campaign – and a nationally recognized expert on transparency and the influence of money in politics.
  • Laurel Ruma (bio) is an editor at O'Reilly Media covering the Microsoft and Gov 2.0 topic areas. She is the co-chair for the Gov 2.0 Expo.
Thursday, June 17, 2010 -
11:00am to 12:30pm