Jon Udell: Data as Performance Art

Jon Udell has been writing about public data a fair bit of late (and he’s agreed to do an interview with us, coming sometime soon). In his latest post, he puts into practice an interesting theory, that good data presented in the right way is a kind of performance art. He demonstrates with a recent hobby horse of his, crime data from his hometown of Keene, which he runs through in a screencast with narration.

Jon’s inspiration for this style of presenting data is Hans Rosling, whose past two TED Talks made data sexy for many who never thought they might consider sexy and data in the same universe.

What Rosling and Udell are illustrating is the sort of thing that governments don’t seem to have time or interest in doing: presenting data in a way that average people can grasp. By doing that, our communities will necessarily become much better at making sensible decisions, for instance about how and where to spend money. There is no reason why governments can’t be doing this too … but more importantly, there is no reason why taxayers should not get access to this kind of data. With the data, citizen can find new and innovative ways of displaying and using the data (meaning the government doesn’t have to), which, if one has faith in data, people and democracy, should translate to better decision-making in the community.