Data Action. Using Data for Public Good

Data Action. Using Data for Public Good, by Sarah Williams, Associate Professor of Technology and Urban Planning at the MIT School of Architecture and Planning. Published by MIT Press.


Many volumes denounce the creation, collect and analysis of data as a source of discrimination, transgression, exclusion. This one goes one pace further. Data, Sarah Williams clarifies, has the same potential to harm society as it has to do good. She knows from experience that data cannot be detached from the doctrines of the organisations and individuals who domination its operation. She also knows how to deploy the power of data to enhance learning, solidarity, talk, to raise debate and to arouse policy change.

Data Action offers a series of priceless, pragmatic insights to anyone planning to collect, process and share data in a way that is ethical, transparent, fair and respected of the people described in the data.

The author eloquently asserts for greater collaboration with policy experts, authorities, designers, data scientists, neighbourhood intellectuals, etc. Most importantly, she believed in the ability of co-creation and in the need to immediately involve local communities represented in the data at every single level of the research process in order to edit biases and rest assured that their express are not marginalised.

auto traffic exchange Hull-House maps and papers, a presentation of nationalities and incomes in a congested district of Chicago, together with comments and papers on difficulties proliferating out of the social conditions, 1895

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The chapter about the imaginative appropriation of already existing data was particularly interesting. Williams invites the book to repurpose online data that’s already been obtained so that the people whom it represents can redeploy it for their own benefit. To her, “hacking” data is part of a broader effort to help improve society and bar” data colonialism “.

The activities explored in the book are the ones that the author has worked on. She explains how each of them has helped define her Data Action methodology. The direct involvement in the experiences she writes about gives the textbook a fascinating, practical line. I would have liked to read about contemporary projections by other activists and decorators as well. Williams does nonetheless introduced special topics into a broader historical context by looking into the many examples of the use of large-scale data for metropolitans during and after industrialisation. From khipu used by Inca people to Charles Booth’s” poverty maps .” From John Snow’s cholera map to Brookes Slave Ship Map. It still is really very US/ UK centric but this lack of attention for know-hows that are not exclusively “Anglo-Saxon” will surprise perfectly no one who is neither North American nor British.

Chicago Spatial Information Design Lab in collaboration with the Justice Mapping Center, Million Dollar Blocks

The Million Dollar Blocks projection used rarely accessible data from the U.S. criminal justice system to draw maps of “million dollar blocks” and of the city-prison-city-prison migration flow for five of the nation’s cities.

digital cameras Civic Data Design Lab, Ghost Cities: Built but Never Inhabited

free traffic exchange The Inca structure of writing in khipus, or knotted cords. Photo: The Trustees of the British Museum

free traffic to my website Massive interchange clears gargantuan slouse of Overtown in 1967. Source: Transit Miami( via)

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In front of BP’s loathing to share information about the extent of the Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico, environmental organizers established a DIY toolkit for aerial photo using helium bags, kites and cheap digital cameras.

Gulf of Mexico Humanitarian OpenStreetMap

Humanitarian OpenStreetMap was an example of crisis delineating in which citizens actively participated in the collation of data in the wake of a natural or civic emergency. In this case, the project tried to identify record injuries after Hurricane Sandy.

How To Make Money Online Daily The Guardian, The Counted: Tracking parties killed by police in the United State, 2016

How To Make Money Online Fast And Free Frederic Thrasher, delineate of organizations in Chicago under Prohibition. From “The Gang; a Study of 1,313 Mobs in Chicago”, 1927

IAAC Fall Lecture Series- Data Action: Using Data for a Public Good

Related book reviews: Race After Technology. Abolitionist Tools for the New Jim Code; Algorithms of Oppression. How Search Engines Reinforce Racism.

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