Public Lab Research note

Report back from Transparency Camp 2013

by liz | May 06, 2013 21:32 06 May 21:32 | #7264 | #7264

Transparency Camp is a project of the Sunlight Foundation. Shannon and I held a session on "What citizen science can teach open government"

The notes below are also located at:

From simply saying hello to your neighbor to moderating online listserves, there's a sometimes bewildering array of interactions that go into building community around open data. Join Public Lab -- a 2,000+ member global community dedicated to open environmental research -- in discussing models, methods, and the occasional madness of online and offline interaction.

crowdsourcing does not equal participation

  • crowdharvesting issues in science participation
  • projects framed as "getting people to participate in what we want to do" are not going to yield robust community development
  • Instead, helping people to skill-up to be the authors of their own agendas will yield lasting engagement

horizontal leadership

  • if you refer to people participating in your projects as users, you probably are going to have a buy-in problem later on
  • In Public Lab, for people who contribute to the knowledge base, organize events, and spread the word of open source get nominated to join the "organizers" group: an elected body of community leaders who shape the direction of Public Lab, co-author articles, apply for funding together, and make public presentations on behalf of Public Lab. 40+ members and growing.

Offline + Online

  • Cross-community collaboration-- local knowledge transfer
  • Offline (outside!) local groups meet online to share and work together with other localities and people with diverse expertise
  • Local face-to-face activities are where most of the work happens -- Public Lab is about local issues and doing local research
  • Posting this online as "research notes" and discussing results and issues on the mailing lists is how we amplify our work and advance the community as a whole.
  • We hold events called "barn raisings"-- a community of diverse constituents collectively gathering to share knowledge, strategy and tactics ranging from technical how-to's to ethical considerations. It may look like an unconference, but it traces its roots back to Open Space Technology which predated the modern "foo camp"

Diversify collaborations

  • Public Lab works with people from varied backgrounds that each uniquely contribute "local expertise"-- social science, community organizing, activism, journalism, biological sciences, design and hardware design (for instance)
  • reach out and make connections, find what you share in common instead of trying to define boxes for everyone's separate expertise.
  • for in-person collaboration time, shut your laptops. Get out big paper, markers, and have a conversation.

Open data generated for a reason

  • small data vs big data
  • advocacy driven field work to support existing community agendas versus trying to "discover" insight from random buckets of data dumped from other initiatives
  • Process driven-- not just about the data, about getting people to understand the process of collecting and generating data from the ground up


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