Co-Laboratory for Data Impact

The Co-Laboratory for Data Impact focuses on narrative data strategies and is committed to advancing civic-oriented and impactful visual storytelling for issues of public urgency in the areas of diversity, transparency, and sustainability. The lab serves as a university hub for faculty, staff, and students looking to communicate visually with data in the public sphere and for external partners of various kinds seeking expertise in this domain.

Through creative practice and research, the lab contributes to the fields of design and data journalism, exploring areas such as visual poetics, metaphors, and evidentiary aesthetics. We aim to expand the vocabulary of public data storytelling by using the wellspring of a broad range of approaches: journalistic, design-centric, and artistic. We aim at facilitating sense-making around digital information, while providing the tools for public audiences to understand the world in new impactful ways. We value quantitative rigor and data integrity while risking innovative, poetic and metaphoric data portrayals.

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Current projects for fall 2019-2020 include:

  • Diversity Explorer: Boston, Households, Entropy (in beta), which examines racial and linguistic variation across households in Boston, using Census microdata, and visualizes the data using metaphor;
  • The 2020 Election Tracker (ongoing), which is part of the Storybench.org project’s efforts to provide novel insights on the U.S. election by analyzing news coverage and social media data. As part of this, the Co-Lab has been helping colleagues with the DebateVis project, run by the Northeastern InterVis Lab;
  • The Fabric of Online Speech project (planning stage), which is leveraging social media data from Twitter, Reddit and Facebook to visualize contentious communications in digital space;
  • Climate Narrative Explorer (in beta), which is building tools to analyze climate change coverage in more sophisticated ways, using sentiment analysis and examining narrative arcs in stories.
  • The Computation + Journalism Symposium 2020, which is being hosted on March 20-21 at Northeastern University and which the Data Impact Co-Lab is helping to organize.

 

Students

Gibby is a 3rd year computer science and journalism student in the Khoury College of Computer Sciences. Her primary interests are in text and data analysis. She has worked in technical writing and development.

 

 

Szu Yu Chen is a graduate student at Northeastern University’s School of Journalism and writer at the Storybench. She is passionate about data analysis and visualization. She previously worked at a design consultancy and a digital media firm in Shanghai.

 

 

Laura South is a PhD student at Northeastern University in Khoury College of Computer Sciences. Her research applies information visualization to social and political issues like political debates and accessibility. She is advised by Professor Michelle Borkin.

 

 

Alex is a 5th year computer science and design student in the Khoury College of Computer Sciences. His primary interests are in data visualization and interactive storytelling. He has worked at Upstatement and The Boston Globe.

 
 

 

Projects

dustzone

Staubmarke is a public space installation in Stuttgart – a city affected by airborne particulate matter pollution. Controversies between public health advocates, the city, and the local industry often manifest in disputes about proper methods of measurement and the veracity...

Simulated Dendrochronology of U.S. Immigration 1790-2016

Nature has its own ways of organizing information: organisms grow and register information from the environment. This is particularly notable in trees, which, through their rings, tell the story of their growth. Drawing on this phenomenon as a visual metaphor,...

Art of the March

Art of the March is an online archive and interactive presentation of protest signs and posters collected in the aftermath of the historic Boston Women’s March on January 21, 2017. This website contains digital images of over 6000 signs placed...

Mapping Media and Politics

Using social media and news coverage datasets, this cluster of projects explores and maps sentiment of political messaging on Twitter; the magnitude and longevity of political advertisements on Facebook; and the foci and gaps in media coverage surrounding issues like...

Maps of Daesh

The ongoing Syrian civil war raises new cartographic challenges, including the ethical question of how the self-proclaimed Islamic State should be represented. States and news organizations face a conundrum: by mapping IS territory, they implicitly acknowledge its statehood. This project...

The State Financial Disclosure Project

While national debate in the United States continues over financial disclosure practices for federal officials, personal financial disclosure for state and local officials remains an under-studied area also in need of more sunlight and scrutiny. This research project scores each...

Publications

Cruz, P., Wihbey, J., Ghael, A., Costa, S., Chao, R., and Shibuya, F. 2018. “Process of simulating tree rings for immigration in the U.S.” In IEEE VIS Arts Program Annotated Projects. Berlin, Germany. [download]

 

Cruz, P., Wihbey, J. 2018. “200 Years of U.S. Immigration Looks Like the Rings of a Tree.” National Geographic. [online]

 

Howe, J., Bajak, A., Kraft, D., and Wihbey, J. 2017. “Collaborative, Open, Mobile: A Thematic Exploration of Best Practices at the Forefront of Digital Journalism.” Storybench. [working paper, download]

 

Wihbey, J., Beaudet, M., and Cruz, P. 2017. “There are huge holes in how the U.S. states investigate politicians’ conflicts of interest.” Washington Post/Monkey Cage. [online]

 

De la Torre-Arenas, I. and Cruz, P. 2017. “A taxonomy of motion applications in data visualization.” In Proceedings of Expressive’17 – The joint symposium on Computational Aesthetics and Sketch Based Interfaces and Modeling and Non-Photorealistic Animation and Rendering, Los Angeles, article 7. [ACM]

 

Wihbey, J. and Beaudet, M. 2017. “State-level Policies for Personal Financial Disclosure: Exploring the Potential for Public Knowledge on Conflict-of-Interest Issues.” In Proceedings of Law & Policy Division, Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication Conference. [AEJMC]

 

Offenhuber, D.. 2017. Waste Is Information — Infrastructure Legibility and Governance. Cambridge: MIT Press [link]

 

Offenhuber, D. 2017. “Maps of Daesh – the Cartographic Warfare Surrounding Insurgent Statehood.” GeoHumanities. [pdf][link]

 

Sam, A. and Offenhuber, D. 2017. “Auditive Space – Its Limitations and Its Materiality.” GAM. Architecture Magazine, no. 13. [pdf]

 

Offenhuber, D. 2017. “Sticky data – context and friction in the use of urban data proxies.” In Data and the City. ed. Rob Kitchin, Tracey P. Lauriault, and Gavin McArdlel. New York: Routledge. [pdf]

 

Wihbey, J. and Beaudet, M. 2016. “Transparency, Corruption, and the Information Needs of Communities: The Case of Personal Financial Disclosure”. Northeastern University School of Law Research Paper No. 278-2016. [SSRN]

 

Offenhuber, D. 2016. “Urban Entropy.” In What Urban Media Art Can Do: Why When Where and How?, edited by Susa Pop, Tanya Toft, Nerea Calvillo, and Mark Wright. S.l.: Av Edition Gmbh.

 

Offenhuber, D. 2016. “The Transactionalization of Infrastructure as a Case for Accountability-Oriented Design”. Design and the City Conference, Amsterdam. [pdf]