Our new sister project, Waste Stories

We have recently launched a new sister project that complements the Data Commons Scotland’s data-based orientation to waste and resources in Scotland with an approach based on generating stories and short fiction about the materials that enter the waste stream in Scotland.

Waste Stories is a project that aims to transform the relationships that we have with waste by exploiting the affective power of story-telling.  It involves Data Commons Scotland team members Anna Wilson, Hannah Hamilton and Greg Singh. You can find out more about it here:

About Waste Stories

We’ll be using some of the images and stories generated through this project to enhance the Data Commons Scotland open data platform in future.

What might a Waste Commons Scotland platform look like? Initial ideas in our design scenarios

A core goal of the DCS project is the development of ways in which Open Data platforms can be designed to be both multi-level (in terms of expected expertise) and learnable.  That is, we want to identify and start to develop features that encourage users to access and use the available data in increasingly sophisticated ways, learning both how to use the platform and how to engage with data at the same time.

Because of this, it is essential that the DCS team keep future users at the centre of the research and design process.  We have therefore adopted a design approach based on the creation of personas and scenarios developed from what a range of potential users told us, in a series of in-depth, qualitative interviews.

While personas and scenarios (or user journeys) are fairly widely used in HCI design, we’ve taken a slightly different approach to building our personas.  Building on an approach we developed in previous research (Wilson et al. 2018), we used the methods of phenomenography to analyse the interview data in a way that embraces the richness and diversity of skills, backgrounds, aims and values of potential users.  We then used the results of this analysis to create personas and scenarios that are based on values and capacities rather than needs and solutions.

These scenarios also imagine what a Waste Commons Scotland platform might look like, including some of the features we imagine we will need in order to help people learn how tomake use of the data such a site will link them up with.

You can find the resulting personas and scenarios on the Resources section of this site.


Data Commons Scotland at SODU2020 – the build up!

We’re excited to be participating in SODU2020 this weekend (5th and 6th September 2020).  SODU is the Scottish Open Data Unconference, organized by Aberdeen’s Code the City and this year’s purely online event looks as if it’s going to be as excliting as ever. The pitches being developed on SODU2020’s Slack channel suggest there are going to be lots of thought-provoking, critcal and productive conversations. We’ll be pitching ourselves, hoping that people will be interested in the Data Commons Scotland project and willing to share their own experiences and expertise in order to help us find some solutions to the challenges we’ve been identifying.

We’re hoping to run at least one session (more, if there’s enough interest) addressing the following questions:

  • How we can help potential data providers feel more comfortable making ‘imperfect’ data open (there are no perfect datasets, right?) 
  • At the same time, how can we communicate to a variety of potential users the quality/reliability/completeness of the data that do get shared so that they can be sensibly used/applied?
  • What has already been done well on other open data sites – we don’t want to reinvent the wheel, after all?
  • What are the best linking approaches (semantic web/shared labels…)
  • And what about community sourced linked open data – what are the reliability issues associated with that, and are their any good tools for uploading it?

To help us get some conversations going around these issues, we’ve produced a short video that highlights some of what we’ve learned so far from the perspective of both potential users and ourselves as researchers/designers.

The first part of the video is based on one of the scenarios we’ve created as part of our user-design process – we’ll post another blog about the six personas and their assocaited scenarios soon. The second part of the video is based on our own perspectives. We’d love to know if you have any suggestions to help us answer some of our questions.

Data Commons Scotland: discovering ways to make Open Data work for the common good

Household waste recycling centre - image created by Peter Facey, reproduced under CCSA-2.0

As the Open Data Institute says in its Guide, What is ‘open data’ and why should we care?:

You can’t go 10 minutes without hearing about data these days. “Data blogs.” “Big data.” “Data protection.” “Data.” “Daahta.”

Data are described as the “new oil”, promising improvements in economic growth; transparency, accountability and governance; health; and more.  The Open Data movement aims to put data, and therefore the associated benefits, into the “commons” – that is, the common wealth of resources that belong to all of us.  Open Data  are data that’s available to everyone to access, use and share.
But although moves to make community, commercial, health, governance and scientific/social research data freely and publicly available hold out the possibility of improvements in many spheres, for many people, the number and range of people actually making use of Open Data remains limited. We believe this is at least in part because making data available is not enough to make it truly Open – data also need to be made useable.

Data Commons Scotland is a collaborative, interdisciplinary partnership, funded by the EPSRC, that is undertaking research and design work to try to find ways of addressing this problem.

We’re undertaking a case study around waste management and recycling data with an aim to better understanding the issues surrounding making data open in an effective way.