visualization | MIT Center for Civic Media

Visualization tools offer new ways to inform and improve understanding. Showing data in relation to geography, the passage of time, and other contexts helps individuals and communities to prioritize and weigh the meaning of facts. Visualization can refer to mapping, locative media, visual data, or many other ways of showing data graphically.

Data Therapy

Project Status: 
Active

As part of our larger effort to build out a suite of tools for community organizers, we are helping to build their capacity to do their own creative data visualization and presentation.

The Rise of Experimental Government: David Halpern at the What Works Global Summit

What is the state of the "empiricism agenda" to understand "what works" in policy? And what is it that we don't know?

I'm here at the What Works Global Summit (WWGS) in London, where David Halpern and Peter John are discussing the role of randomized trials in society. The WWGS is a gathering of practitioners in international development, policing, education, public health, activism, and many other areas where people have applied quantitative methods to get causal estimates on the outcomes of their social interventions.

Practicing Data Science Responsibly

I recently gave a short talk at a Data Science event put on by Deloitte here in Boston.  Here's a short write up of my talk.

Data science and big data driven decisions are already baked into business culture across many fields.  The technology and applications are far ahead of our reflections about intent, appropriateness, and responsibility.  I want to focus on that word here, which I steal from my friends in the humanitarian field.  What are our responsibilities when it comes to practicing data science?  Here are a few examples of why this matters, and my recommendations for what to do about it.

http://www.slideshare.net/rahulbot/practicing-data-science-responsibly

 

Introducing DataBasic.io

We're pleased to announce the launch of DataBasic.io - a suite of simple web-based tools and hands-on activities that help you get started learning to work with data. The tools are geared towards journalists, non-profits, activist groups and students. Rather than just building data tools to make a pretty charts, we've designed these with learners in mind and we made them fun!

We’ve got three tools for you to start playing with – WTFcsv, WordCounter, and SameDiff. Pop on over to https://databasic.io and give them a try. Right now we’re supporting Spanish or English, and it is accessible to visually impaired via screen-readering software.

Don’t forget to watch the short intro videos on each homepage, and check out the activity guides.

Data Sculpture: Media Perspective

For those of us who work with data, we get used to visualizing in our mind and develop an intuition for it. For everyone else, data visualization usually takes the form of a diagram on a small, two-dimensional screen. Standard data plots can take an exciting idea and turn it into something boring, or even worse, drudge up memories of panicked high school math exams. This experimental data sculpture attempts to draw the viewer into the visualization and connect them with the data on an intuitive, physical level. The sculpture shows the amount of coverage the U.S. mainstream media gave to Net Neutrality between January 2014 and April 2015, while the FCC was creating revised Net Neutrality rules. Each of the 33 panes of clear acrylic represents a two-week time slice, with the size of an etched circle corresponding to the amount of coverage. The top row shows total Net Neutrality coverage, with the other three rows representing coverage of "innovation," "discrimination," and "regulation," in reference to Net Neutrality.

What is Civic Innovation in India?

Three of us (Sands, Alexis & Rahul) were in India in mid January to lead a week long workshop for Indian undergraduates about Civic Innovation. Students and alumni from the MIT Media Lab have organized large Design Innovation workshops in India for the last few years, focused on a bottom-up approach to changing how engineering education happens in India. There are certainly exceptions, but Indian education is typically very traditional, and there aren't many opportunities for sharing ideas and approaches across disciplines.

Our goal was to work with the 30 participants in our track and explore a few questions:

  • What does "civic innovation" mean in India?
  • Can we help these students apply their skills to problems that matter?
  • Do our methods and approaches for doing civic work apply in India?

Field Trips

To explore what civic innovation means in India, and to provide some inputs into our design process, we took a few field trips around Ahmedabad.

Lasers, Food & Data (Telling a Story About Food Security)

Can a vegetable tell a story about food access in Somerville?  Yep.

"70% of Somerville Public School students receive free or reduced lunch" - laser-cut onto a cucumber

“70% of Somerville Public School students receive free or reduced lunch” – laser-cut onto a cucumber

In public settings, it can be quite hard to get folks walking by interested in a data-driven argument about your cause.  We often argue that a creative data sculpture can grab their attention… like maybe a vegetable laser cut with some data about food security!

Gratitude and its Dangers in Social Technologies

How do our designs change when we start emphasizing people and community and not just the things they do for us? Over the next year of my research, I'm exploring acknowledgment and gratitude, basic parts of online relationships that designers often set aside to focus on the tasks people do online.

In May of last year, Wikipedia added a "thanks" feature to its history page, enabling readers to thank contributors for helpful edits on a topic:

Thanks on Wikipedia July 28-30, 2014

Trip Report: Connecting with Belo Horizonte, Brazil

I just returned from a fascinating week in Belo Horizonte (Brazil)!  The trip was organized by the Office of Strategic Priorities (@escritorio_gov) of the State of Minas Gerais (they are members of the MIT Media Lab).  The Escritorio joined the Media Lab to think harder about fostering innovation and empowering their citizens.  Following those themes, we worked together and planned an agenda that focused on four main activities:

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