Data Visualizations and Democracy

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Blogger, e-government guru and fellow panelist at PDF, David Stephenson, writing at The Huffington Post profiles a speech he’s to give at this week’s Netroots Nation Conference in Austin. David makes the case that government should free up its vast stores of information to the Web 2.0 revolution. This would allow citizens to create “data visualizations,” cool graphics that also help to make information understandable for the rest of us. He quotes Edward Tufte, the so called da Vinci of Data (who’s thinking of Italy?) “Often the most effective way to describe, explore and summarize a set of numbers — even a very large set — is to look at pictures of those numbers.” David says that such graphics “highlight inefficiencies, break down barriers between programs and agencies, and (potentially) leverage “the wisdom of crowds” both within agencies and among the general public to find creative new approaches.”

David highlights Everyblock Chicago, Neighborhood Knowledge Los Angeles and the District of Columbia’s Citywide Data Warehouse as examples of local governments freeing their data to the public.

Sunlight couldn’t agree more that’s why many of our analyses also rely on strong visualizations to bring the story home.

Lastly, my blogging and that of other Sunlighters will be light for the next few weeks as we all seek some  summertime  R and R.

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