Endangered Data Week: Digital Humanities and Civic Data Literacy

Brandon T. Locke (blocke@msu.edu), Michigan State University, United States of America

Endangered Data Week (http://endangereddataweek.org) emerged in the early months of 2017 as an effort to encourage conversations about government-produced, open data and the ways in which it may become endangered due to political, technical, and social factors.

The 2016 US election set off a wave of activism surrounding government data, particularly in the collection and mirroring of environment and climate change data. While much of this attention has been focused on the United States, similar conditions have affected and continue to threaten governments around the world. Endangered Data Week presented an opportunity to funnel even more attention to the issue of potential federal data loss, while also providing opportunities to include lessons on data literacy, civic issues and policy advocacy, data management and curation, technical skills for data capture, and open access and open data in scholarship.

The inaugural Endangered Data Week (April 17-21, 2017) was comprised of 57 formally registered events from 30 institutions and organizations, including virtual participation from hundreds of participants from around the world. The second annual Endangered Data Week will be February 26 - March 2, 2018.

One particularly interesting strain of events in Endangered Data Week is civic data literacy. While so many other projects, including DataRescue, the Preservation of Electronic Government Information (PEGI) project and Environmental Data and Governance Initiative (EDGI) are focused on capturing and preserving government data, Endangered Data Week data literacy events focus on the capacity of the user communities. They seek to enable broader communities to use, interpret, and analyze open data.

The required knowledge and tools for working with civic data overlap significantly with much of the work digital humanists do with data. The creation of datasets often requires scraping information off of the web in flat HTML or confusing databases. Data in both contexts is often irregularly formatted or melded together from multiple sources, requiring the cleaning and reorganization. Meaningful research often requires an iterative process of researching the contexts in which the data was created and the data itself to resolve undocumented meaning in the data. Both contexts also require interpretation for both specialized and non-specialized audiences.

This poster will include a brief overview of Endangered Data Week and will focus on the existing efforts to teach civic data literacy, including an exploratory framework for the most essential skills, knowledges, and tools that are required for diverse communities to use civic data, and the relationship between these events and the broader role of digital humanities faculty, librarians, and staff within our institutions and the communities in which we live.