Secret Life of a Weather Datum project event

End-of-project event, 16/03/2015, Information School, Sheffield

  1. Principal Investigator Dr Jo Bates (@j0bates) introducing the project
  2. Problematic idea that data is neutral - some have suggested that theory is dead, all we need is big data analytics #lifeofdata
  3. Critical data studies informs the #lifeofdata project - data the result of “contingent and contested social practices”
  4. Focus on weather data - massively political (climate science, financial markets) and everyday #lifeofdata
  5. Research Q1: what is the journey that data from the Met Office takes from production, through to collation, re-use as 'big' data #lifeofdata
  6. Research Q2: what socio-cultural values and practices are articulated in the transformation of this data on its journey? #lifeofdata
  7. Paula Goodale (@PaulaGoodale) talking about data collection and analysis
  8. 4 case studies: data production, climate science, financial markets, citizen science #lifeofdata
  9. 1st case study: weather station at Weston Park Museum (@MuseumSheffield). One of oldest weather stations in UK #lifeofdata
  10. Other participating organisations included @metoffice and citizen science organisations such as @oldweather #lifeofdata
  11. Methods included semi-structured interviews using oral history-style approach, and observation of working environments #lifeofdata
  12. Core themes of interviews: own data practices, motivations & challenges, relationships with other orgs, external environment #lifeofdata
  13. Observational notes and photographs - communal and personal space, interactions, technology #lifeofdata
  14. Digital ethnography - reports, policy docs, but also Twitter at the IPCC conference #lifeofdata
  15. Conscious decision not to use software to analyse qual data - immersed in it very deeply #lifeofdata
  16. Coding looked at attitudes, values & beliefs; activities & practices; social relationships; the data journey #lifeofdata
  17. Some reticence to observing working practices - partly as people perceived their own work as 'boring' #lifeofdata
  18. Nobody wanted to be videoed. Also concerns about photos with people in due to concerns about privacy, commercial sensitivity #lifeofdata
  19. Needed to build trust with case study organsations to be allowed to access data necessary for #lifeofdata project
  20. Other main area of difficulty has been negotiating permissions to make all data open - unusual for qualitative research #lifeofdata
  21. Some people happy for interview transcripts to be made available, but not audio data #lifeofdata
  22. Up to individual as to whether to waive anonymity - there were varying degrees of comfort with this #lifeofdata
  23. Dr Jo Bates (@j0bates) talking about the project website and key themes in the research findings
  24. User can explore data journey & follow it through system by clicking on any node #lifeofdata
  25. How non-linear data journey research findings from #lifeofdata project are represented on a linear #map @LifeOfData
    How non-linear data journey research findings from #lifeofdata project are represented on a linear #map @LifeOfData
  26. Audio clips included on website - for transparency, & to foreground the role of people in the process #lifeofdata
  27. Website is primarily descriptive, not heavily theoretical, but informed by critical lenses #lifeofdata
  28. The #lifeofdata site asks questions of its users - space for public discussion
  29. Key themes - social relations across space. Weston Park is rich local data ecology within a wider global network #lifeofdata
  30. Interesting relationship between domestic space & work space, especially in @oldweather project - volunteers working at home #lifeofdata
  31. Interesting social relationships across time - inter-generational relationships. Sense of connection of knowledge #lifeofdata
  32. Empathetic relationships over time, especially in @oldweather project. Volunteers travel with crews of ships that collected data #lifeofdata
  33. Sense that it's important to archive weather data for posterity #lifeofdata
  34. Another key theme - diversity of discursive cultures across infrastructures #lifeofdata
  35. Culture of trust in discursive spaces such as Weston Park, @oldweather, amateur observers, archives. #lifeofdata
  36. Local data sharing ecology rooted in idea that there is public ownership of data #lifeofdata
  37. Politically restrictive discursive spaces were encountered in larger national and global institutions #lifeofdata
  38. Desire to present particular public image restricted discursive space #lifeofdata
  39. Some market/commercial restrictions on discursive spaces. Redactions from transcripts (often of most interesting bits) #lifeofdata
  40. Were not able to access any of key financial players in weather derivative markets #lifeofdata
  41. Politics being enacted through data sharing practices - Weston Park (@MuseumSheffield) had v strong culture of public heritage #lifeofdata
  42. Climate scientists - want to share data but working in complex, contested & shifting socio-political economic environment #lifeofdata
  43. Open discursive space can conflict with open data? Are we giving public data away for free? #lifeofdata
  44. To what extent should the State fund an infrastructure that opens up data for exploitation by the market? #lifeofdata
  45. Data infrastructure dependent on cultural values of voluntarism, goodwill, public service, collective action #lifeofdata
  46. Environmental open data and sharing is still broadly framed by interpersonal, political and legacy of pre-network licensing #lifeofdata
  47. Funding cuts being felt, and also data infrastructure not always a priority for funders #lifeofdata
  48. This pilot project has been able to illuminate relationships across nodes, emphasis role of local in global infrastructures #lifeofdata
  49. Initial usability testing suggests website is good way of communicating to wider audience #lifeofdata
  50. Q from @Ajprescott: how much is anyone looking at business models for making weather data available? #lifeofdata
  51. .@j0bates: economic right are very much in favour of open data policies to drive economy forward #lifeofdata
  52. Q: to what extent has #lifeofdata considered the different national models globally for open data?
  53. .@j0bates: The City has a strong influence in the UK, different from European context #lifeofdata
  54. Joan Arthur talking about the @oldweather citizen science project (
  55. .@oldweather describing how historic ships weather data can be used to understand the climate changing across time #lifeofdata
  56. Not trying to interpret data but make available electronically #lifeofdata
  57. What has our weather been doing for the last 170 years? How is the Arctic doing? #lifeofdata
  58. Ships observe weather, animals, ice etc 24/7 - valuable source of historic weather data #lifeofdata
  59. Earliest ship for which data is available is the USS Jamestown, 16th March 1845 #lifeofdata
  60. .@oldweather transcribers - key reasons for doing it include general interest in science/history, contributing to research #lifeofdata
  61. .@oldweather community extends across globe, from Europe to North America to Australia #lifeofdata
  62. Forum provides help with copperplate writing which can be challenging. Human eye better than computers #lifeofdata
  63. Sense of community within transcribers built upon stories behind the data that is being used to understand our changing climate #lifeofdata
  64. People very dedicated to @oldweather community - e.g. transcribing while in labour! #lifeofdata
  65. Danny Antrobus (@dantrobus) from The Better With Data Society (@betterwithdata) talking about the Air Quality+ project ( ) and Open Data Sheffield (
  66. Way to get people into open data is to pick a subject that people are interested in - in this case, air quality #lifeofdata #aqplus
  67. #aqplus open data project to look at causes and consequences of variable air quality across #sheffield #lifeofdata
  68. Near-real-time quantitative data on pollution levels in Sheffield, also stories #lifeofdata
  69. The negative consequences of poor air quality hard to see #aqplus #lifeofdata
  70. Council monitoring stations around #sheffield developing community map of air quality #aqplus #lifeofdata
  71. Engage with artists to see how they would present the data #aqplus #lifeofdata
  72. Includes a musical score based on air quality data that was played by riding a bike #aqplus #lifeofdata
  73. Wearable items that degraded as air quality became worse #aqplus #lifeofdata
  74. #aqplus hack evenings start next Monday with the aim of developing ways to visualise air quality data with @betterwithdata #lifeofdata
  75. #aqplus project conference on Friday 22 May - keep an eye on the blog for more details  #lifeofdata
  76. Building Raspberry Pi weather stations at lunchtime
  77. Dave Mee (@davemee) talking about the technical aspects of designing the website
  78. Website aims to present research findings to general audience in engaging, informative & interactive way #lifeofdata 
  79. Core ideas of website were that it should be reusable and open. Embedded content from other sources #lifeofdata
  80. Maps, paths & journeys are common metaphors in web systems. Maps comprise nodes, connections & annotations #lifeofdata
  81. Lessons learned from website: automating map generation is difficult! Fell back on static maps in the end #lifeofdata
  82. Used Ajax page navigation so as not to lose context of page wrapper - just the relevant parts of the page refresh as you mvoe #lifeofdata
  83. Automated system to disable comments after period of inactivity - thinking ahead to cope with inevitable spam #lifeofdata
  84. Framework is up on Github and can be cloned and used as starting point for similar sites  #lifeofdata
  85. Standards-compliant and accessible - nothing dependent on proprietary plug-ins, works with screen readers #lifeofdata
  86. Exploring the Life of Data website
  87. Panel discussion on "Data dissonance: Hype, power and engagement in the data revolution.
    Chair: Dr Jo Bates (@j0bates)
    Panellists: Professor Andrew Prescott, University of Glasgow (@Ajprescott); Professor Helen Kennedy, University of Sheffield (@hmtk); Danny Antrobus, The Better With Data Society (@dantrobus)
  88. Big data, open data, data revolutions etc - is it all just a lot of hype? Question to @dantrobus #lifeofdata
  89. .@dantrobus: There is a lot of hype. Need to think critically: in interests of companies to hype it up to generate consultancy #lifeofdata
  90. .@dantrobus BUT there is a lot of scope for interesting things, citizens using open data to make life better #lifeofdata
  91. .@hmtk also rejects language of revolutions - implies discontinuity with past #lifeofdata
  92. .@Ajprescott agrees with @hmtk re language of revolutions - has spent whole life living through constant revolutions #lifeofdata
  93. .@Ajprescott data “revolution” part of modernity and industrial society #lifeofdata
  94. .@hmtk: Power is important. Data can be used to control and sort socially, to give power to those already powerful #lifeofdata
  95. .@Ajprescott Big data debates different from open data - large commercial datasets which are not publicly accessible #lifeofdata
  96. .@Ajprescott: Use of big data to predict trends is huge intellectual challenge for humanities - threat to individualism #lifeofdata
  97. .@Ajprescott Community engagement is one way of getting to grips with this - getting control back #lifeofdata
  98. .@Ajprescott All texts are socially constructed, deceptive and slippery, come from position of power. Just as true of big data #lifeofdata
  99. .@hmtk Data aren't just 'there', they are produced in particular ways. Humanities & crit social sci ask how they are produced #lifeofdata
  100. .@dantrobus open data community born out of tech community so a need for context brought by arts humanities and social sciences #lifeofdata
  101. .@dantrobus Need for people who understand how data collected, how to combine data sets #lifeofdata
  102. .@j0bates How can academics and the data community engage with a wider public? #lifeofdata
  103. .@dantrobus Hack day might involve building app, but not engaging with the resultant data #lifeofdata
  104. .@dantrobus how do we show the workings behind the data in products of hack days? #lifeofdata
  105. .@dantrobus If you understand how data feeds into a system, you might start thinking about how your own data is used #lifeofdata
  106. .@dantrobus Data co-operatives - what role might public orgs like community libraries have in getting ppl to think about data? #lifeofdata
  107. .@hmtk Did focus groups to find out what social media users think of data mining - common response is don't know, don't care #lifeofdata
  108. .@hmtk Rows of data might be dull, but what happens to data - the #lifeofdata - is not dull
  109. .@hmtk narratives and stories around data make it interesting #lifeofdata
  110. .@dantrobus Pregnant teen story didn't consider all other teens who got same adverts who weren't pregnant #lifeofdata
  111. .@Ajprescott: Arts & humanities can contribute further in area of design - computer scientists sometimes do terrible graphs! #lifeofdata
  112. .@Ajprescott: Also role in demystifying data, showing where it comes from #lifeofdata
  113. .@Ajprescott A lot of interest in storytelling as a way of engaging with data, from both researchers & commercial organisations #lifeofdata
  114. .@hmtk Some data visualisation folk don't like language of 'storytelling' as it implies fiction #lifeofdata
  115. .@Ajprescott Has been claimed that big data analysis gives better indicators than traditional sampling methods #lifeofdata
  116. .@hmtk: Use of predictive techniques to identify people who are likely to commit crime. BIG ETHICAL ISSUE #lifeofdata
  117. Comment from floor: there has been something of a revolution in terms of data-driven policy (without considering context) #lifeofdata
  118. .@hmtk a revolution? We’ve shifted from data collected quite specifically to data collected through surveillance on everybody #lifeofdata
  119. .@Ajprescott Change not generated by data, but by wider social shifts e.g. civil service populated by economists #lifeofdata
  120. .@hmtk the ‘metricisation’ of life - everything measured and given a number #lifeofdata
  121. .@hmtk Facebook Demetricator project - removing the numbers from facebook, no longer a focus on how many  #lifeofdata
  122. Interested in #lifeofdata tweets? Check out  for initial project findings and forthcoming blog posts on today's event.
  123. Signing off now - but do get in touch through website or Twitter to let us know your thoughts!  #lifeofdata