New Project: The Social Life of Data

This is a quick placeholder post about a project I’ve been sketching ideas around for a while, but which is finally getting started in earnest. The Social Life of Data is an IKM Emergent supported pilot exploring ways to capture and display information about:

  • How particular open datasets have been used;
  • Who is involved in using particular open datasets – and how are they connected;
  • What conversations happen around open data when it’s used in different contexts;

There are two main parts to the pilot:

  1. Building a prototype of an tool to record and display¬†‘open data workflows’
    The prototype should allow either a data re-user; or a third party; to record at various levels of granularity how they have used a particular dataset, and should then make it easy for someone looking at a use of data to explore the different stages that went into making it. 

    In some preliminary work so far we’ve been exploring how far the workflow might capture provenance information of an Open Provenance Model type, how linked data technologies might provide foundations for the tool, and what sorts of interfaces make it easy to record the connections between a dataset and the ways it has been used. We’re planning on recording workflow stages using an adapted ‘Artifact’, ‘Process’ and ‘Agent’ model, and bringing in extra information about data uses and conversations around data.

    Key to the open data workflows tool is the assumption that, in the first instance, it’s about building explanations of how data has been used for humans to explore and understand. Whilst we’re working on ensuring the ‘workflows’ that are recorded are captured in open and structured data, we’re not worrying too much in the prototype about how machines will understand the workflows – though we’re leaving the option open for that later.

  2. Recording the ‘social life’ of a number of International Development Datasets
    Creating a visualisation of how particular datasets are being used, and the conversations that exist around them. Using this to ask questions about differing interpretations of data, or communities of data users, and to explore relationships between linked and open data and how it is understood in different contexts.

The project will hopefully get it’s own webspace / blog soon – but for the time being – if you’ve any questions, just drop a note in the comments below and I’ll try and share updates here as they emerge…

One Comment

  1. Mirko Lorenz

    Sounds interesting and worth exploring. Could we get in contact, discuss this and maybe do an interview about this with you? In Vision Cloud we are working on a workflow for data in newsrooms, maybe some ideas match well here.

    Our project wants to connect to all the cool data tools that are already out there, focusing on being a dashboard showing the progress of a given data project and connect the team members. Given that it is an EU project we are very open to collaborate and share insights.

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Open Data in Developing Countries


The focus of my work is currently on the Exploring the Emerging Impacts of Open Data in Developing Countries (ODDC) project with the Web Foundation.

MSc – Open Data & Democracy

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