March 2008

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Visualizing Information for Advocacy: An Introduction to Information Design written and designed by John Emerson, Principal at Apperceptive LLC. & Backspace and coordinated and produced by the Tactical Technology Collective.

Visualizing Advocacy

This beautiful pamphlet teaches basic Information design which is the use of

pictures, symbols, colors, and words to communicate ideas, illustrate information or express relationships visually.

The objective is to assist NGOs to communicate with information design so they can:

  • tell their story to a variety of constituencies;
  • use it as an advocacy tool, for outreach or for education.
  • facilitate strategic planning by making a visual map of a given situation.

There is access to data and there is making data accessible. This is the first grassroots data aesthetic communication tool I have ever come across, and it is wonderful.

world clock

the world clock.


Project for Public Spaces is a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping people create and sustain public spaces that build stronger communities. Founded in 1975, PPS embraces the insights of William (Holly) Whyte, a pioneer in understanding the way people use public spaces. Today, PPS has become an internationally recognized center for best-practices, information, and resources about Placemaking.

Here’s a little flick about Havana streets, with PPS’ Ethan Kent:

The film, and many more, was put together by StreetFilms, which is:

…a project of the New York City Street Renaissance (NYCSR), a collection of non-profits geared towards re-imagining the city’s public spaces and making our streets safer for pedestrians, bicycles and non-vehicular modes of transportation. The goal of the NYCSR is to engage the Department of Transportation and the city’s elected officials in a dialogue about how to best improve the quality of life for all New Yorkers.

This should be good, and pose some questions to the mission of … questions we ought to be able to answer, if we are serious about what we’re trying to do.

One Nation Under Google: Citizenship in the Technological Republic

A public talk by Professor Darin Barney
Canada Research Chair in Technology & Citizenship, McGill University.

Friday, March 14, 2008
Arts W-215, 853 Sherbrooke Street West, McGill University, Montreal
18h30, free

Does more technology equal more freedom? While the nuts and bolts of technological progress – computers, cellphones, internet access wired and wireless – become accessible to more and more people, the promise of increased civic engagement enabled by these gadgets seems to have eluded our wired society. There’s a lot more to technology, and to democracy, than wires and buttons, and it has a much deeper affect on our lives than simply being tools we can use well or badly.

In Dr. Barney’s words, “technology is, at once, irretrievably political and consistently depoliticizing. It is at the centre of this contradiction that the prospects for citizenship in the midst of technology lie.” Presenting a range of examples from YouTube to the hidden networks of food production and government bureaucracy, Barney contests the common notion that technology necessarily leads to enhanced freedom and improved civic engagement. One Nation Under Google examines the challenge of citizenship in a technological society, and asks whether the demands of technology are taking over the practice of democracy.

Presented in collaboration with CKUT 90.3FM

Check out the new UNdata – United Nations Data Access System (UNdata)

The new UN data access system (UNdata) will improve the dissemination of statistics by United Nations Statistics Division (UNSD) to the widest possible audience. An easy to use data access system was developed that meets UNSD’s vision of providing an integrated information resource with current, relevant and reliable statistics free of charge to the global community.

Subsequent stages of the development of the UN data access system will extend to UN system data as well as to data of national statistical offices – providing the user with a simple single-entry point to global statistics.



Imagine if we could do that in Canada!

Check out what open public transit data is available in Finland:

I suspect a small minority of transit authorities in Canada may actually have GPS units on board buses, but I haven’t heard of any making the data publicly accessible — and not in such fine form. This is really beautiful to see, but it fills me with shame that we are light-years behind.

Original article in the Guardian:

Is anyone aware of any real-time data being made available in Canada?

I have a thing about cars, idling, air quality and really appreciate it when people develop interesting visualizations & sonifications that make car population issues tangible by using metaphors which make those data meaningful. While this is an HR intensive and expensive visualization project, it could not have been done without access to some free data and in this case Madrid Movilidad. I would have liked a bit more metadata and metholodological explanations to accompany the visualizations though! Nonetheless, this project reinforces the argument that experimentation and innovation comes with free data!

Cascade on Wheels is a visualization project that intends to express the quantity of cars we live with in big cities nowadays. The data set we worked on is the daily average of cars passing by streets, over a year. In this case, a section of the Madrid city center, during 2006. The averages are grouped down into four categories of car types. Light vehicles, taxis, trucks, and buses.

We made two different visualizations of the same data set. We intended not just to visualize the data in a readable way, but also to express its meaning, with the use of metaphors. In the Walls Map piece, car counts are represented by 3D vertical columns emerging from the streets map, like walls. The Traffic Mixer piece, where noise is the metaphor, is an hybrid of a visualization and a sound toy. The first piece focuses more on showing the data in a readable and functional way, while the latter focuses more on expressing the meaning of the data and immersing the user into these numbers. Both pieces try to complete each other.

Check out their videos!

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