Popular Data, Open Data Critiques, Open Government and Big Data Theory #DataDigest

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Popular Data

Towards a Concept of Popular Data

This post by Rahul Bhargava of the MIT Center for Civic Media explores what a “popular data” model, which could encourage increased citizen engagement and data reuse would look like. He proposes some basic principles for such a concept in recognition of the general public’s failure to understand current data language. This is a problem he tries to address with his Data Therapy project. Popular data he says refers to “engaging, participatory approaches to data-driven presentation and decision-making”. Principles include: participation from various groups, learner guided explorations (e.g. through data murals work), prioritising facilitation over teaching, ensuring accessibility to a diverse set of learners and focusing on real problems in the community.


Open Data Critiques

Four critiques of open data initiatives

Though a self identified long time supporter of open data, Rob Kitchin discusses four open data critiques in this post. These include their lack of a sustainable financial model; the tendency for data release to empower the empowered; lack of utility and usability; and the facilitation of neoliberalisation and marketisation of public services.  He says that open data initiatives need to be much more mindful of what data are being made open, how data are made available, how they are being used, and how they are being funded.


Ethics and risk in open development

In this Open Knowledge Foundation post Linda Raftree points to the lack of attention on the consequences of opening up and sharing data about NGOs and communities that have fewer resources, limited technology connectivity, and less of an understanding about privacy and data. She asks whether an NGO can make the decision to share or open data from/about program participants and if it ok for an NGO to share ‘beneficiary’ data with the private sector in return for funding to ensure sustainability. The potential for liability of donors or program implementers and the need for more discussion around private vs. public (which changes based on context and geography) is also raised. She asks if community members and activists should be included in risk analysis, assumption testing, threat modeling and risk mitigation work related to data sharing to help solve such issues.


Open Data and Open Government

The Influence of the Open Government Partnership (OGP) on the Open-Data Discussions

This paper from Bogdan Manolea and Veronica Cret from the European Public Sector Information Platform introduces the OGP and its relationship to open data concepts through reviewing case studies for Moldova and Romania. It looks at how the OGP process influenced national open data processes. While the OGP Declaration does not specifically mention “open data”, there are a number of references in the Declaration that are a direct reference to the public sector information reuse movement. However, Open Government (and even less the OGP) does not equal open data and what it means is still being discussed even by countries already signatory to the OGP.


Big Data

Big Data needs Big Theory

In this post Geoffrey West says that just as the industrial age produced the laws of thermodynamics, universal laws of complexity (‘big theory’) is needed for the ‘big data’ era. He says that in addressing global issues we still don’t know what kind of data we need, nor how much, or what critical questions we should be asking and without this it usefulness diminishes and generates new unintended consequences.