Humbly Report: Sean Bechhofer

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Future Everything

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Future Everything 2011

Future Everything 2011

I attended some of the ideas sessions at FutureEverything in Manchester last month (thanks to @julianlstar). I particularly enjoyed the session on Linked Data/Linked Stories. Chris Taggart opened with some reflections about data that’s been released and is available on Openly Local. His comment was that a few years ago, the presence of this data would have been a story Council spends X million. Now, it’s just data, and the stories are about teasing information out of that data. He also highlighted cases where data had been redacted (due, I believe, to there being personal information involved). However, in that list there are some big ticket items — £50K for hospitality and trading services. Is there a story here….? With this move to opening up the data, the omission of information can become as important as the inclusion.

Martin Belam and David Higgerson also gave interesting position statements, but it was something that Paul Bradshaw said that stuck with me most. He described the steps in data journalism as being:

  • Compile
  • Clean
  • Connect
  • Communicate

Communication here is in particular about how one visualises the information and provides something that is somehow personalised — we can sometimes lose the notion of the individual when considering masses of numbers. Higgerson also talked about the importance of narrative in presenting a story — plotting and charting data is not enough, and context is key (but then that’s the case for any statistical treatment I guess). The thing that struck me here was that this was pretty much the same steps that we go through as scientists conducting research. When writing papers, it’s often the story or narrative that’s the hard thing to get right. Maybe this should be unexpected — after all data journalism and scientific research shouldn’t be that far apart, but it’s nice when these connections pop up.

Other sessions that I found interesting were on hacking culture and Sue Thomas talking about Creative Truancy, although I’m that keen on bringing too much cyberspace into the natural world. One of the reasons I like being on top of a mountain or under the sea is precisely because I’m disconnected from other things, and the view/fish/whatever can command all my attention.

Food for Art

On the arts side, one piece that I particularly enjoyed The Food of Art. A collection of posters that made me laugh out loud — and that’s always a sign of good art for me! It seems there are quite a lot of calories in a dead deer…..

Written by Sean Bechhofer

June 9, 2011 at 5:11 pm

Posted in conference

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