Building an Embassy of Data


Door Linda Vlassenrood
Leestijd ± 5 minuten

Eindhoven wants to become a smart society. But how does that work? What’s going on in a society like that? Are there any good examples to learn from? DATAstudio explores the transition a city has to go through to actually become such a smart society. Each week, we present a new contribution on E52. This week: The Embassy of Data. Read all the articles here.

The three-year program of the DATAstudio is beginning to reach its final stage. At the invitation of the World Design Event, the team of the DATAstudio will program The Embassy of Data, in which the lessons we learned will be presented. The World Design Event will be organized for the first time this year, and will take place from 20 until 29 October in Eindhoven.

The WDE connects the city, its inhabitants, international creative thinkers and doers, urban innovators, the business community, educational institutions and government bodies. Eight creative embassies around themes like urban transformation, climate change, intimacy, and data operate as the central nodes.

The Embassy of Data aims to raise awareness of the possibilities and opportunities presented by data but also of the threats and inadequacies. Cities around the world aspire to become cleaner, safer and more efficient through the use of data. To these ends, they use digital tools to process data, and increasingly also to produce it. Data collection and analysis are being put to use in the attempt to find solutions to more and more problems, including social ones. Problems often crop up with data protection and interpretation, however. What’s more, not all issues can be captured in the form of data. When it comes to subjects such as loneliness and social cohesion, true “data deserts” exist. Building a smarter society, then, begins not with collecting more data but with collecting the questions that matter to society.

 

The questions of the embassy of Data

The Embassy of Data will comprise an exhibition and an open living lab staffed by students and DATAstudio employees. The exhibition will help the public to understand and experience some of the issues around data and its often invisible impact on our everyday lives.

For this reason, in the Embassy of Data, as much data as we can get will be collected about the visitors and the city center of Eindhoven. The boundary of the embassy’s “territory” will be visibly marked out for visitors. They w, therefore, re be aware they are entering the site, yet they will nevertheless experience the surprise of a certain amount of screening. What data are being collected here? Where are the sensors and the cameras? Where and how are phones being tracked via cell-towers, Wi-Fi and or Bluetooth? Which Dutch and international companies and municipal agencies have access to the information gathered? What kind of data will be stored, where, and for how long? Who’s doing what kind of research here, anyway? How much money is investalled, and who stands to profit? Which laws apply? Who is in charge? Which rules are being followed? All these aspects will be made visible and legible.

Exhibition

The first part of the exhibition will consist of an impressive visual representation of the data. The aim is to show visitors just how much data is being collected and what happens to it. The Embassy of Data will seek to help people understand a process that normally takes place invisibly and/or behind closed doors The second part of the exhibition will give insight into how data is transformed into information. It will start of with a list of the questions underlying the data collection. Who wants to know what, and why? The exhibition will go on to explain how the data are ultimately analysed. Which steps and criteria are used to reach conclusions? Who sets these criteria?

The third part of the exhibition will zoom in on the gaps – in the data stream, in interpretation, in current legislation, in citizen involvement and citizen usability. Which subjects are missing? Which subjects aren’t captured by data in the first place? Which subjects are well supported by data but don’t appear to be relevant? Who’s being excluded? What risks are being overlooked? Is the growing data stream merely serving to increase  divides in society or not?

Open Living lab

The exhibition will provide a spatial and substantive context for the open living lab, the heart of the embassy. In the living lab the work is not dealing with automatically gathered quantitative data, but with soft, more qualitative information that is gathered, processed and interpreted.

The Embassy of Data does not only want to stimulate transparancy by government bodies and companies in relation to their datapractices, also we argue that that hard data should always be enriched with soft information. Only in this way will it be possible to fully perceive the needs, wishes, changes, and underlying sentiments in society. The Embassy of Data will therefore invite the audience to supplement the available hard data with soft information by taking part in interviews and various activities on the site.

Workshops, talks and Woenseltopia

Alongside  the daily activities the Open Living Lab will host special additional events. With these, at one hand we want to exhange our knowledge and that of the visitors and citizens of Eindhoven, at the other hand they have the aim to test altenrative ways to gather and make legible qualitative information from society. Next to workshops and a lecture on big data with discusssions for visitors and citizens of Eindhoven, we’ll  invite children form primary school who’ve taken part in the DATAstudio programme MapLab to present policymakers with their conclusions about their neighbourhood in the form of stories and drawings. An other part of the program will be the game Woenseltopia, a serious game developed collaboration with Games for Cites. In several play sessions we’ll invite groups of 20 participants to spend two hours working together in a fun way to solve local spatial and social problems with the help of relevant data.All insights and development surrounding data inthe city will finally be put in internaitonal perpective in a big conference on the 24th of october.

Looking forward to seeing you in the Embassy of Data.

Linda Vlassenrood, Data Studio Eindhoven

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