New project: What can citizen-generated data do? Research collaboration around UN Sustainable Development Goals

Yellow Bar Island Habitat Creation balloon mapping from July 2012,
Gena Wirth, Public Lab.

A new research initiative led by the Public Data LabKing’s College London and Open Knowledge International in collaboration with the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data and the UN Foundation will map and explore what “citizen-generated data” can do, with a particular focus on the UN Sustainable Development Goals. It will be undertaken ahead of the World Data Forum in October.

The initiative will explore projects, practices and visions associated with citizen-generated data, including: What does citizen-generated data do? How is it imagined, created and used by different actors? What kinds of participation, experience, subjectivity and politics do citizen-generated data projects enable and engender?

It is informed by our recent work on “data infrastructure literacy”, “data worlds”, the “data city as public experiment”, experimentation around air quality data, as well as our previous research collaborations around how citizens and civil society groups can assemble data to attempt to change what is officially accounted for.

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Panel on “Data Worlds” at EASST2018

I’m co-convening a panel on “Data Worlds? Public Imagination and Public Experimentation with Data Infrastructures” at EASST2018 – the latest edition of the conference of the European Association for the Study of Science and Technology – which takes place on 25-28th July 2018 at Lancaster University, UK.

The panel is organised by several colleagues at the Public Data Lab, including Noortje Marres (University of Warwick), Carolin Gerlitz (University of Siegen), Tommaso Venturini (École Normale Supérieure Lyon) and myself.

We had a very interesting set of papers submitted in response to the CFP that went out in December, and further details about the panel (including talks and abstracts) are available here and copied below.

For more about this theme you can also refer to two recent open access articles on “Data Infrastructure Literacy” and “Data Worlds”.

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New Essay: “The Data City as Public Experiment?”

An essay on “The Data City as Public Experiment?” that I wrote with Noortje Marres (Centre for Interdisciplinary Methodologies, University of Warwick) has just come out in London Ideas, a new publication from the Centre for London. You can download a PDF of the piece here. The précis is as follows:

Cities have long been imagined as “machines for living”, and today’s data technologies carry the promise of making them more “intelligent” – more attuned to the lives of citizens; better able to ensure feedback and the re-adjustment of relations between people, environments, and institutions. How might data, and data culture, play a role in reshaping city life, for whom, and to what end?

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New Article: “Data Infrastructure Literacy”, Big Data & Society

An article on “Data infrastructure literacy” that I co-authored with with Carolin Gerlitz and Liliana Bounegru has just been published in Big Data & Society. The abstract for the article is copied below. The article is open access and you can download the PDF here.

Data infrastructure literacy

Jonathan Gray, Carolin Gerlitz, Liliana Bounegru

A recent report from the UN makes the case for “global data literacy” in order to realise the opportunities afforded by the “data revolution”. Here and in many other contexts, data literacy is characterised in terms of a combination of numerical, statistical and technical capacities. In this article, we argue for an expansion of the concept to include not just competencies in reading and working with datasets but also the ability to account for, intervene around and participate in the wider socio-technical infrastructures through which data is created, stored and analysed – which we call “data infrastructure literacy”. We illustrate this notion with examples of “inventive data practice” from previous and ongoing research on open data, online platforms, data journalism and data activism. Drawing on these perspectives, we argue that data literacy initiatives might cultivate sensibilities not only for data science but also for data sociology, data politics as well as wider public engagement with digital data infrastructures. The proposed notion of data infrastructure literacy is intended to make space for collective inquiry, experimentation, imagination and intervention around data in educational programmes and beyond, including how data infrastructures can be challenged, contested, reshaped and repurposed to align with interests and publics other than those originally intended.

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New Project: “Save Our Air”

Today the Public Data Lab is launching its Save Our Air project, which explores how data can be used to attend to and assemble people around different aspects of air pollution.

As well as focusing on how data can represent air pollution levels in the context of science and policy, it looks at how “situating techniques” can provide new perspectives and involve different publics – such as experiments in “personalised” measurement with school pupils, mapping the landscape of issues and actors associated with air pollution on digital media and examining how different actors apportion blame and responsibility.

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Japanese Translation of “A Field Guide to ‘Fake News’ and Other Information Disorders”

The Japan Center of Education for Journalists (JCEJ) has just published a Japanese translation of the Public Data Lab‘s Field Guide to “Fake News” and Other Information Disorders. You can download the PDF here.

I provided the following quote to accompany their announcement:

We’re delighted to see the Japanese translation of the Field Guide to ‘Fake News’ and Other Information Disorders”. Through its various recipes we hope to inspire investigations and experiments not only around misleading content, but also the platforms, infrastructures and algorithms through which they are shared, quantified, monetised and through which they gain their viral character. Recent events serve as a reminder that this remains a vital area for research, reporting, public debate and public policy – and we look forward to seeing how the guide is used in Japan.

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New Article: “A Reality Check(list) for Digital Methods”, New Media & Society

An article titled “A Reality Check(list) for Digital Methods” that I co-authored with with Tommaso Venturini, Liliana Bounegru and Richard Rogers has just been published in New Media & Society. The abstract for the article is copied below. You can download the PDF here.

A reality check(list) for digital methods

Tommaso Venturini, Liliana Bounegru, Jonathan Gray, Richard Rogers

Digital Methods can be defined as the repurposing of the inscriptions generated by digital media for the study of collective phenomena. The strength of these methods comes from their capacity to take advantage of the data and computational capacities of online platforms; their weakness comes from the difficulty to separate the phenomena that they investigate from the features of the media in which they manifest (‘the medium is the message’, according to McLuhan’s 1964 dictum). In this article, we discuss various methodological difficulties deriving from the lack of separation between medium and message and propose eight practical precautions to deal with it.

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New Article: “Three Aspects of Data Worlds”, Krisis: Journal for Contemporary Philosophy

I’ve just had an article on “Three Aspects of Data Worlds” published in Krisis: Journal for Contemporary Philosophy as part of a special issue on “Data Activism”. Edited and introduced by Stefania Milan and Lonneke van der Velden, the issue includes articles from Helen Kennedy, Lina Dencik, Stefan Baack, Miren Gutiérrez, Leah Horgan and Paul Dourish. The abstract for my article is copied below. The whole issue can be read online or downloaded in PDF format here.

Three Aspects of Data Worlds

This article introduces the concept of “data worlds”. Drawing on previous literatures and theories of worlds, worlding and world-making, it outlines three closely related aspects of data worlds – as (i) horizons of intelligibility, (ii) collective accomplishments, and (iii) transnational coordination – illustrated with ongoing empirical work. It concludes by discussing how this kind of analysis might inform and enrich research, reflection and intervention around the politics of data.

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New Project: MiniVAN for the Visual Analysis of Networks

Introducing MiniVAN

I’m happy to announce that the Public Data Lab has received funding from Sage Publishing to develop a project called MiniVAN. This will be a simple tool to facilitate the visual analysis of networks and online publication of results. Further details are copied below.

MiniVAN will be an easy-to-use tool that will support non-specialist social scientists in the visual analysis of their networks and in the online publication of their results.

Networks are becoming increasingly popular in the social sciences as interfaces for exploratory data analysis. The “Visual Analysis of Networks” (VAN) allows academics to explore large relational datasets without having to deal with the full complexity of graph mathematics. A key barrier remains, however, for the adoption of this approach: current VAN tools are either too complicated or unable handle the growing size of the datasets that are typical in the digital social sciences.

MiniVAN aims to solve this problem by providing a tool for the visual analysis of networks that is accessible to academics with little knowledge of mathematics or coding and yet able to scale up to output graphs containing hundreds of thousands of nodes.

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Panels on data journalism and climate change at International Journalism Festival in Perugia, 11-15th April 2018

I’m involved in several panels at the upcoming International Journalism Festival in Perugia on 11-15th April 2018.

I’m moderating one on “conversations with data” with Gregor Aisch (Datawrapper), Caelainn Barr (The Guardian), Sam Leon (Global Witness), Simon Rogers (Google News Lab), Lam Thuy Vo (Buzzfeed News). This will explore themes in the second edition of The Data Journalism Handbook, amongst other things.

I’ll be speaking on one on “connecting science and journalism though climate change and digital innovation” with Alok Jha (Wellcome Trust), Viktorija Mickute (Contrast VR), John Reilly (MIT Joint Program), Alan Rusbridger (former editor-in-chief at the Guardian, now University of Oxford), Elisabetta Tola (Formicablu) and Rina Tsubaki (European Forest Institute).

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