Infrastructuring Open Data as a new common

The February Featured Story from Open4Citizens is an update from the coordinators of the citizens centered Horizon2020 project: the Service Design research group at Aalborg University (www.servicedesign.aau.dk).

Data is increasingly everywhere around — being made publicly available through open data initiatives of various kinds, as results of microprocessors and smart city sensors, or through social media networks. Open data in particular is a new resource that, with the increasing engagement of communities, can become a new common: citizens need to become aware of the potential of this resource, that can be used for creating new services and designers should facilitate this process by defining new practices and infrastructures, that would support the use of it.

The Dimensions of the Hackathon

In the O4C project we use the HACKATHON format as a playground for inviting citizens to experiment with open data in collaboration with interest groups, public servants and business organisations. Together we invite them to work on a commonly defined problem area.
The hackathon process aims at developing specific solutions (apps, services, interactive products) based on open data to address citizens’ and other stakeholders’ problems and needs. However, an equally important output of these events and the activities around them is the generation of knowledge about the context of the challenges being addressed by hackathon participants.

The SOCIETAL CONTEXT includes technical opportunities, embedded in the citizen community and shared beyond that community, as well as opportunities to foster and sustain communities of engaged citizens with an interest in further developing, implementing and sustaining hackathon outcomes. This could include starting new initiatives — growing out ideas ignited at the hackathon. Understanding and building on these latter outcomes is key to infrastructuring open data as a new common.

INFRASTRUCTURING is in fact a key activity of the O4C project and one of its main outputs. Through the creation of an OpenDatalab in each pilot we aim to generate the right ecosystem for the citizens to play in, engaging with the proper stakeholders, data owners and public servants. The physical OpenDataLab could become itself a service that actively promotes the organisation of new service jams, data sprints and hackathons; and the OpenDataLab’s physical place could be a reference point in the cities, where citizens can find support to know more about open data and to organise new initiatives.

DEEP INSIGHT ABOUT REAL WORLD NEEDS FRAMED TOGETHER WITH DATA OWNERSHIP AND CURIOUS CREATIVITY

In the O4C project we foster social innovation by exploring in practice how to balance three fundamental dimensions: 1) The availability of relevant open DATA 2) the nature of the societal CHALLENGE to be addressed, and 3) the creation of a community and a interdisciplinary network of PEOPLE motivated to engage a given topic from a data-informed perspective.

During the 1st project year we engaged various activities preparing the hackathon and a post-hack follow-up phase to ignite innovative ways that open data might help improve integration of newcomers to Denmark. We tested the boundaries or the sensitivity of the cocktail: integration + data + hacking and learned how some qualitative problems are better solved using open data than others. Also of course, open data does not cover every aspect of the lives of citizens/newcomers: the proposed challenge did not directly point of relevant datasets and the work of the participants has consisted in defining possible solutions on the basis of datasets to be crowdsourced. For many citizens passionate about a given topic the learning curve toward making sense of data is also rather steep — THUS: the excitement even the greater, when new insights about possibilities was reached!

WHAT’S UP NEXT?

In the remaining 1,5 years of the project we will continue to coordinate activities between the inspiring mix of consortium partners to refine our methods, tools and the digital platform of the project! 
Concretely, we are also digesting insights from the first year of activities as we are making decisions about how to frame the coming cycle of activities during 2017: we are keen to get our hands even more “dirty with data” — and we are in dialogue with a range of interested collaborators to help build an ecosystem and a community that brings together three complementary ingredients: Expertise on a topic + Ownership of/interest in data + Creative thinking.

Learn more about our experiences so far on Danish ground: http://open4citizens.eu/pilots/copenhagen/

Follow our coming activities and GET IN TOUCH with us at Aalborg University if you’re keen to learn more about our work: Opendatalab Copenhagen


Originally published at https://www.facebook.com/Open4Citizens/ on February 28th, 2017.