Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Civic Data Challenge Invites Entrants to Turn Civic Health Data Into Useful Applications and Visualizations

From email:

Presented by the National Conference on Citizenship in partnership with the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Civic Data Challenge invites participants to turn existing civic health and community attachment data into applications and visualizations that make the information more valuable and accessible to decision makers and the public. 

The challenge seeks participants who can turn the raw data of "civic health" into beautiful, useful applications and visualizations, enabling communities to be better understood and positioned to thrive. The challenge's organizers hope that it will lead to new findings that illuminate why community engagement and attachment are critical to the development of thriving communities.

Challenge participants who analyze and create visual representations of data will be eligible for various prizes. Designers, data scientists, researchers, and app developers are especially encouraged to participate. 

Challenge participants will be provided with civic health and community attachment data, as well as data on health, safety, education, and the economy. Participants will analyze the data, identify connections and correlations, and create visual representations and interactive products to showcase their findings. These may include infographics, apps, animations, videos, or other products.

For more information, check out the Civic Data Challenge webpage.

It wouldn't be particularly scintillating in terms of data-based graphic interpretation, but four big issues for me in terms of so-called "civic health" are:

(1) presence of traditional (print, broadcast, etc.) community media in communities and the access that residents, citizens, and people with alternative perspectives have to these vehicles.

So in DC, I'd say that neighborhoods (Georgetown, Dupont Circle, Upper Northwest, etc.) are better served because they have access to--and in some neighborhoods it's delivered door-to-door--the Current Newspapers, which are published weekly.  This is better compared to Greater Capitol Hill, because there the Hill Rag is published only once/month.  But many neighborhoods lack this kind of vehicle.

In Mount Pleasant, they have a community radio station, Radio CPR.  Technically, there is also cable access television, which people can use, but there is limited information about what it is, how to use it, and what's being broadcasted.

Also see the work by community media scholar Robert McChesney, who teaches at the University of Illinois.

By comparison, in city-wide media, citizens have a bit more access to the Washington Times, the free Washington Examiner, and the alternative weekly, the Washington City Paper, than they do to the Washington Post and the free daily Express.  While the broadcast television stations mostly don't cover community news, just murders, accidents, and fires, and politicians.  However, the NewsChannel 8 24-hour cable channel does provide a few more options for community involvement, as do the programs on the local public radio station, WAMU.

(2) Presence of community bulletin boards and kiosks, where people can independently post flyers and other information.
On the campus of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, so-called kiosks (an element of the underground steam heating system) are used by individuals and groups to post flyers and information.  Flickr image by NYC Comets.

(3) Presence and relative health of civic organizations, at two or three scales: the neighborhood and community-wide scale (e.g., the differences between what the Capitol Hill Restoration Society, a neighborhood group addresses and the DC Preservation League, which is a city-wide organization), along with the political district level (ward, councilmanic district, borough, etc.).  For example, the London Cycling Campaign and the Toronto Cyclists Union support organizing at the ward-borough level.

(4) Measures for substantive citizen connection to local government decision-making, such as the existence of Community Boards in New York City, Neighborhood Planning Unit organizations in Atlanta, the designated community planning groups in San Diego, the Neighborhood Councils in Los Angeles or Seattle, DC's Advisory Neighborhood Commissions, etc. AND measures of substantive access and input that these organizations have.

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