GuideStar International's Blog

August 3, 2011

Linking Art, Technology, and Data for Online Communications

A host of great speakers were in attendance at the event Public 2.0: Culture, Creativity and Audience in an Era of Information Openness. The free event was held on July 21, 2011, in London. It examined the link between these areas of work and its relevance for communicating today and was funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council and the University of Westminster. The event brought together a small gathering journalists, academics, developers, artists, activists, and business people to share ideas, experiences and talk about future possibilities in this space.

Historic Figures Used Data Visualization to Create Change

Florence Nightingale Visualisation

Florence Nightingale was one of the first people to use data to help inform public policy. She discovered that the majority of deaths in the Crimea were due to poor sanitation rather than casualties in battle. She was able to use her Diagram of the Causes of Mortality in the Army in the East to persuade the government of the need for better hygiene in hospitals. John Snow was also able to disprove the theory that cholera was an airborne disease and prove that it was actually caused by contaminated water using a data visualisation.

John Snow Map

Nonprofits have long known the power of images (in particular photos) to gain support for and increase awareness of their work. Today, data visualisation, when done effectively, can provide additional, insightful images. These can also be powerful tools in helping organizations understand needs and influence others with the goal of realising positive social changes in communities.

Diverse Mix of Speakers/Presentations at Event

BBC Data Art, copyright BBC

  • Simon Rogers, Editor of the Guardian Datablog and Datastore gave a great presentation featuring some of the ways in which the paper is using data for reporting. Full datasets are also available for download from the paper’s website. I particularly liked the transparent data model, which shows how the paper processes its data before it is presented as a visualisation.
  • Ian Forrester, Senior Producer at BBC Research & Development, revealed some of the ways that the BBC is emphasising data and social media for reporting, but also examined the patterns and trends that are emerging with the proliferation of data online. He discussed how the ability for individual users to monitor and aggregate their personal data from social media sites and self-tracking devices is leading to the Quantified Self.

    BBC Data Art, copyright BBC

  • The presentation by Drew Helment of Manchester’s Future Everything examined the latest developments at the intersection of art and technology. The group is working with public sector partners to free Greater Manchester’s public data via the DataGM project.
  • The Founder of Furtherfield, Ruth Catlow, also spoke about the need for cross fertilisation of art and technology during her presentation on an open source art world.
  • The showcase of the DataArt project for BBC Data by Harry Robbins of Outlandish Ideas illustrated just how easy it can be to find data with the right interactive visualisations. Do explore! Santiago Ortiz of Bestario’s live demo of the new Impure visualisation software was also interesting.

NGOs Should Visualize Their Data for Greater Impact

Powerful images will forever continue to help nonprofits communicate effectively, so too can data visualisations. Nonprofit communicators need to understand how they can use visualisations to communicate not only internally but also openly with the public. I’d venture that art, data and technology will continue to merge rather than collide. The resulting visualisations and underlying raw data may become a vital means of communications in a globalised world. This is especially true if nonprofits can interact with and question the data visualisations they produce and are presented with.

How can we achieve such data literacy? There’s help!

Most notably, the new Data Without Borders initiative supported by Jake Porway, a data scientist at the New York Times, “seeks to match non-profits in need of data analysis with freelance and pro bono data scientists who can work to help them with data collection, analysis, visualization, or decision support”. Data meetups are also sprouting all over the world to help anyone who wants to learn more about these issues. Find one near you. I look forward to seeing this type of work develop and increase!

Advertisements

January 11, 2010

2010: A Year of Online Clouds, Crowds, and Data Visualizations for CSOs?

By Keisha Taylor

We enter 2010 with plans for cloud computing, crowdsourcing as well as mapping and visualisation of data included in the agendas of governments and businesses. CSOs will do well to consider such options as they seek to maximise the impact of their work. Though such applications must be transparent, safe and respect the privacy of users, the potential benefits to those who proactively engage with it can be significant. Have a look at this interesting list of predictions for ICT trends this year.

Recession proof budgets have caused governments and large, small and medium businesses to realise that cloud computing can be a cost effective way for them to provide services to the public. See US and the UK government examples. TechSoup also lists the benefits of cloud technology to nonprofits.

CrowdsourcingRenewed calls for accountability may lead crowdsourcing to become increasingly used to gauge public opinion, solve problems and get feedback, which can inform and direct policies. One example is Vote India’s use of crowdsourcing to monitor the election process in India. However, it is also being used for the questionable Internet Eyes (to be launched in the UK this year), which invites the public to log onto their website to view CCTV footage and search for and report on crimes witnessed. It has even been used to recruit internet volunteers to search for a missing aviator. These are just three of many ways in which it has been used this year and such usage will no doubt increase in 2010.

The mapping and visualisation of data gathered and the use of real time content, may gather momentum this year and help enhance understanding of our world and the way in which individuals and organisations relate to each other within and across borders. It will also aid response to the call for greater transparency as data, which was unknown, inaccessible or muddled comes to light. The Where Does My Money Go prototype developed for the UK government by the Open Knowledge Foundation to reveal budget expenditure is one example of this, while the IT Dashboard provides the public with mapped data on US government spending.

2Paths gave an interesting presentation entitled Show me the Data at the Turning Statistics into Knowledge conference jointly organized by the US Census Bureau, the OECD and the World Bank, which stressed the need to be able to access and link data from multiple international agencies and foundations to answer questions like “Is aid tied to malaria activities making a difference?” As data becomes more readily available, we hope that more will be done with existing data to help us all visually understand what is really needed to realise socioeconomic development.  Philanthropy 2173 also has an interesting take on the ways in which philanthropy can and may use data and ICT this year in their Decoding the Future posts.

As GuideStar International seeks to illuminate the work of the world’s CSOs online we will also be keeping watch on ICT developments to ensure that the CSOs listed on the site can use modern, relevant technology to publicise their work effectively to all stakeholders on GuideStar.  As with all other issues CSOs will no doubt rise to the challenge of ensuring that civil liberties are protected for users of such technology. We hope that GuideStar will be one of the platforms that they use to showcase that work too.

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.