The Atlanta Map Room is a public space for creating interpretive maps of the city, from a combination of contemporary data, historical documents, and personal experiences. These maps are large-scale physical artifacts, collaboratively-made, and meant for exhibition. The Atlanta Map Room builds upon the recent success of the St. Louis Map Room (http://www.cocastl.org/stlmaproom), a project lead by artist Jer Thorp in conjunction with the Center of Creative Arts. The Atlanta team is collaborating with Thorp to develop a unique iteration of the project in Atlanta, meant to explore invisible tensions in the city, between its rapid development as a commercial hub and its long history as a center for civil rights and culture in the Southeast. The overarching goal of the Atlanta Map Room is to investigate what it means to visualize civic dialog around data. How can the seemingly mundane details of property tax assessments, building permits, and community surveys become the source materials for acts of collaborative creative expression?
The Local Data Design Lab is focused on bridging the substantial divide between two complimentary, but largely disconnected areas of work: data studies and data visualization. The first is an area of scholarly inquiry that has emerged recently in response to the phenomenon of Big Data and seeks to make sense of data from a social perspective. The second is a form of design practice, which produces informative and expressive interfaces to data. It is influenced by, but more publicly oriented than the sub-field of computer science called information visualization. The goal of this crossover research is to develop new models of visualization that inform and engage, but also prompt reflection on the nature of data and the work that they do. Our projects take on a variety of interrelated forms:
- Empirical data studies that can inform practice in data visualization
- Data visualizations that support or embody our studies of data
- Hands-on workshops that enable others to engage critically with data
Beyond its impact in scholarship and practice, the research of the Local Data Design Lab has the potential to improve data literacy in the public realm and is rapidly finding purchase in education, journalism, advocacy and planning-all of which struggle to keep people informed in the face of Big Data.