Governance dashboards combine a variety of open data sources about cities by which they aim to both inform about what is happening at any time and encourage the development of applications based on the data provided. Examples include the Dublin Dashboard (www.dublindashboard.ie), London Dashboard (citydashboard.org/), Data USA (https://datausa.io/) and others. Using a variety of visualisations and interactions, they hope to present data in an easy to understand manner. However, apart from the challenges inherent in open data provision, governance dashboards as such may not be the most effective tool to represent what is happening in a city. While there are efforts underway to make them more user-friendly, questions remain as to whether the dashboards can indeed enable people to make sense of a city.
To that end, Ms Heike Vornhagen, a Ph.D student with the Data Science Institute / Insight Centre for Data Analytics at NUI Galway, is undertaking a survey to investigate what sense people get from current dashboards. “I’m hoping to get feedback from a variety of people as the dashboards are of potential use to businesses and community organisations alike,” said Ms Vornhagen.
She hopes that the feedback will help her to better define the limitations of current dashboards: “Dashboards aim to enable users to understand a city through a set of visualisations and data levers in much the same way as a driver is presented with data via a dashboard. But cities are much more complex with interactions and hidden relationships that influence decision making and policy. This is rarely represented within dashboards.” She added “Data about cities is being used already in decision making yet is being presented to us in a manner that makes it difficult to understand. My research will show what the issues are in this regard and hopefully come up with a model that will allow all of us to make better sense of the cities we live in.”
The results of the survey will feed into further research with the final aim of developing a visual tool to more fully represent a city in its complexity.
Ms Vornhagen has worked for many years as a project manager before undertaking an MA in Digital Media. Combining both her interest in technology and visualisation with her experience of governance, she embarked on her current research with the Data Science Institute / Insight Centre for Data Analytics in 2015.