Creative Data Literacy: Bridging the Gap Between the Data-haves and Have-nots

A Brown Bag with Catherine D’Ignazio

Event date May 23, 2017 12 - 1pm

Communities, governments, libraries and organizations are swimming in data — demographic data, participation data, government data, social media data — but very few understand what to do with it. Though governments and foundations are creating open data portals and corporations are creating APIs, these rarely focus on use, usability, building community, or creating impact. So although there is an explosion of data, there is a significant lag in data literacy at the scale of communities and citizens. This creates a situation of data-haves and have-nots, which is troubling for an open data movement that seeks to empower people with data.

But there are emerging technocultural practices that combine participation, creativity, and context to connect data to everyday life. These include data journalism, citizen science, emerging forms for documenting and publishing metadata, novel public engagement in government processes, and participatory data art. This talk surveys these practices both lovingly and critically, including their aspirations and the challenges they face in creating citizens that are truly empowered with data.

Catherine D'IgnazioAbout Catherine D’Ignazio
Catherine D’Ignazio is a scholar, artist/designer, and software developer who focuses on data literacy and visualization for civic engagement. She is passionate about introducing data analysis and storytelling to artists, journalists, librarians, nonprofits, and policymakers. Her research at the intersection of technology, design, and the humanities has been published in the Journal of Peer Production, the Journal of Community Informatics, and the proceedings of Human Factors in Computing Systems (ACM SIGCHI). Her art and design projects have won awards from the Tanne Foundation,, and the Knight Foundation and exhibited at the Venice Biennial and the ICA Boston. Together with Rahul Bhargava, she designed and developed the free, open-source data literacy platform

D’Ignazio is an assistant professor of Civic Media and Data Visualization at Emerson College, a principal investigator at the Engagement Lab, and a research affiliate at the MIT Media Lab/Center for Civic Media. She holds an MFA from Maine College of Art, an MS from the MIT Media Lab and a BA (Summa Cum Laude, Phi Beta Kappa) from Tufts University.

Event Details:
Location: E25-401
We will provide lunch, please bring your own drink and your questions.


Information Science Brown Bag talks, hosted by the Program on Information Science, consists of regular discussions and brainstorming sessions on all aspects of information science and uses of information science and technology to assess and solve institutional, social, and research problems. These are informal talks. Discussions are often inspired by real-world problems being faced by the lead discussant.