What Could Data Journalism Tell Us About Events?
Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus) on 6 June 2013
One of the sessions at the forthcoming IWMW 2013 event is entitled “IWMW: The Digital Story“. The 90 minute-long session will provide an opportunity for participants to share their stories, anecdotes and digital resources for IWMW events since it was launched in 1997. The aim will be to provide a series of stories about the event including some of the key moments, the ways in which the event has influenced participants over the years and the role the event has had in supporting a thriving community of practice for those with responsibilities for providing large-scale institutional Web services.
What Can the Data Tell Us?
But beyond the recollections of the community and the memories which may be triggered by photographs and video clips, what stories could be told by use of data associated with the event?
Due to long-standing interest in the value of data (and particularly open data) we have been providing a series of data sets about the IWMW series of events for a number of years. In particular we have RSS files available for:
- Locations for the 17 IWMW events
- Biographical details of the plenary speakers at the IWMW events.
- Biographical details of workshop facilitators at the IWMW events.
- Abstracts of the plenary talks and workshop sessions at IWMW events.
The biographical details includes the location of the host institution of the plenary speakers and workshop facilitators (normally where they are based in a university). These geo-located RSS files can be viewed in services such as Google Maps, Yuan.cc and Acme.com (for example see the location of plenary speakers using Google Maps and the location of workshop facilitators using Yuan.cc).
The RSS files ensure that the information is provided in a format which can be used by a number of freely-available applications. An example of a fragment of one of the RSS files is illustrated, which shows how the file contains the biographical information supplied by the speakers, the geo-location of their host institution, the date of their session and a link to their biography on the IWMW Web site.
The following caveats should be noted:
- The location of the host institution is normally available only for people who are based at a University (although on a number of occasions, the location of people based in organisation such as Eduserv hasd been provided).
- The coordinates has been obtained from Google Maps and may differ slightly over the years in different buildings representing the institution have been found.
- The date of the talk or session will only apply to the first session, if multiple talks have been given.
- The date has not been used for all years.
- The date may not take into account British Summer Time.
- The semantics of the have been subverted, as the date does not give the date the item was published (this field was used as it is processed by some timeline applications.
- There may be errors in the data.
But what stories could be told using such data? My thoughts are:
- The range of institutions which have contributed to the series of events is depicted by the location map.
- Connecting the institutions with institutional profiling information e.g. size of institution and grouping (e.g. Russell Group) might tell us if large institutions or research-led institutions showed a greater tendency to share their expertise and activities (or boast about it!) across the sector.
- Tag clouds of the session titles and abstracts might tell provide a visualisation of the topics covered.
- Applying a timeline across the data could provide an indication of the changes in topics of interest over 17 years.
Such stories may emerge from consideration of the data which is available. But what about the stories which the gaps could tell us? These might include:
- Institutions which have never provided a speaker or facilitator.
- Topics which might be expected to have been covered in the past 17 years but which have not been included in session titles or abstracts.
A page containing links to the various RSS feeds is available. Anyone have suggestions for other stories which could be told? And would anybody like to provide a visualisation, an infographic or a story based on this data? Finally, I’d welcome suggestions on how analysis of the data associated with well-established events (such as Jisc, UCISA, SCONUL, ALT-C, etc. events, for example) might provide fresh insights into such events.