Data Visualization

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Facilitated by Amanda Hickman - github.com/amandabee Syllabus, Cheat Sheets, etc. amandabee.github.io/CUNY-data-skills

  • Reasons to want data
    • Focus on a population
    • Evidence for a claim you're making is actually true
    • Reduce harm
  • When we're talking about data, we're talking about something in a spreadsheet that you can chop up and analyze and such
    • A PDF is not data yet, because it's basically a picture.
      • Tabula from Nerd Powerful is a great tool for pulling data from PDF tables
    • Charts and maps are not data because you can't really reverse engineer them
  • Where to find it
    • Librarians. They live for this
    • Open data portals
      • Open data is a set of laws that governments are required to put out public data
    • Ask for sources on reports and charts that you see
      • If you see a great visualization, then you should call up the authors to try and get their data
    • Academics
      • PhD's have great data that will never be seen because they're academics and thus write unintelligibly
    • SF Indicators Project
    • Census
    • American Community Survey
    • CensusReporter.org
    • Bureau of Labor Statistics
    • Community Expenditure Survey
    • Various public health departments
    • Think tanks
    • Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) / Freedom of Information Law (FOIL)
      • Muck Rock will help you out on doing a FOIA request.
        • Check out examples of letters they've sent, and their boiler plate letters
        • They'll alert you about timeline stuff
      • There may be costs involved
      • This is kinda your last resort
      • When making a request, ask for the person who's responsible, not just a receptionist. You need someone to hold accountable
    • Geo Commons
      • Very open set of geographical data sets
      • Great for polygons like districts
    • Planning Departments
    • Cicero
      • Legislation
    • Sunlight Foundation
  • Strategies for getting data and analyzing
    • If someone tells you they don't have the data, that's not the end. They can help you find it.
    • Ask for the name of their database
    • Ask for the specs of the database they're using
    • Get a lawyer if they claim that giving you data is a threat to homeland security
    • Ask for possible costs up front
    • Ask StackExchange
    • NICAR
  • Working with Data
    • Provenance matters
      • Especially if you're using open data from places like Geo Commons. You need to understand where the data came from
    • Not everything should be data
  • Tools