Groupshot: Open Data for the Unwired World

March 3, 2014 9:42 am PST | Data Apps & Visualization, Open Data

By Alida Moore

 

Here at Socrata, we seek to highlight the great work other organizations in the open data movement are doing. Today we shine a spotlight on Groupshot, an organization whose mission states, “Good design amplifies the potential in human networks.” Adam White is the principal co-founder of Groupshot. He spoke with Socrata about his work. 

“I have been working as a design researcher to identify ways for data, particularly open data, to have more impact in different communities in the world,” White says. “In particular, I have been looking at how open data can be used by small businesses and informal entrepreneurs, non-profits and community based organizations, and even activists and local advocacy organizations.”

White’s work has taken him all over the world. In 2012, he wrote, ” Open data, when it works, is a step towards an honest and more inclusive society.” Here in the United States, we are used to living in a wired world and walking from the bus to Starbucks to the office, without ever missing a beat in our 3G connection. White explains how we can take something as basic as open data for granted, saying, “Often, open data is only available to tech savvy individuals — people with not only mobile access but also the data literacy to understand the charts and the data behind them.”

In the summer 2012, White led a field research project in Kenya to find examples of where open data could impact a community locally, and to identify the tools and visualizations used to make this data more accessible. “Participants described examples of how public health data could lead to local behavior change, how location data could help grow a small business, or how demographic data would help a local community-based organization raise funds and improve their services,” White says.

For his design research study, White focused on the results: opportunities, ideas, and observations about how open data can be made more accessible. “These ideas include working with local artists to re-imagine charts, icons, and maps or partnering with organizations and individuals with data expertise to co-develop apps and tools that are geared towards this new audience for open data,” says White.

One project White worked on in Kenya was a mapping visualization project in the slums surrounding Nairobi. “I sought out different artists and asked them to paint their own map of Kenya,” says White. Each artist had a different representation. White continues, “I offered them a full size map to ‘trace’ or a small map for reference. My favorite map, and the most landmark driven visualization, was painted by a Matatu sign painter with no base map. The pink/turquoise map is based off of OpenStreetMap data for the area.”

The other map derived from OpenStreetMap, based on a literal map.
The other map derived from OpenStreetMap, based on a literal map.

 

Isaac's map
Isaac’s map

 

Isaac with his map of Kibera based on how he thinks it would be most useful. He highlighted key landmarks for navigation and also used different urban "texture" depending on the style of the neighborhood.
Isaac with his map of Kibera based on how he thinks it would be most useful. He highlighted key landmarks for navigation and also used different urban “texture” depending on the style of the neighborhood.

 

Isaac the Matatu Sign Painter in Kibera -- behind him are signs for Matatus.
Isaac the Matatu Sign Painter in Kibera — behind him are signs for Matatus.

Groupshot continues this groundbreaking work with new projects that we will be following closely. In the meantime, White dedicates himself and his work to moving the open data movement forward, globally.

“Open data can truly be open when we begin translating data to different mediums and styles while also training more ‘data translators’ –community members who speak ‘data’ to help develop new local opportunities and representations,” White explains. 

We couldn’t agree more. 

All photos courtesy of Adam White and Groupshot. 

 

 

 


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