Assignment 2: Visualize data and create an environmental mashup

Gather some environmental data (or related topics from the class) approved by the instructor and create a mashed up visual narrative from it. Show the result to at least three people and ask them about their impressions. Broadly defined, a mashup juxtaposes two types of online information in an unexpected or powerful way. The result might provide new functional capabilities or new information. This term is most often used to describe the juxtaposition of online data and functionality. Interesting examples can be found at the Mashup Awards site. 

In the case of environmental data, there is a lot of uncertainty around the best way to convey information about impact to people. This uncertainty is present throughout all aspects of what we teach. For example, how to best convey the impact of climate change as a whole (is climate change the right term? how about climate crisis? Do we talk about polar bears? melting ice? How do people interpret the temperature changes quoted? etc.). How about a water bottle -- how does one effectively convey the impact of a single bottle, and its indirect vs  direct impacts? What does lbs of CO2 or BTUs mean? What does it mean to have soil with 1000 parts per million lead in it? How about other pollutants? Think about these things as you work on your assignment.


For a great list of visualization tools, check out Katie Kuksenok's blog post on the topicFeel free to be creative. If you have questions about what ideas are reasonable, just ask!

Existing projects you can participate in:
  • GreenScore: Think craigslist mashup meets Walkscore. Help us change the way people go about finding apartments to rent! Data set: the Residential Energy Use Survey contains nationwide data about residential energy use that could be mashed up with other data sources (full 2005 data set with micro files included.)
  • The Stepgreen.org project (which is helping to run a campus sustainability competition as we speak) has a huge amount of available data. Do something fun for the campus competition! More details on what's involved in getting data out of stepgreen here
Other data sets you might want to do something with:
    • ChargeCar project   has a lot of data about where people travel when they commute that can be used to optimize electric cars. There could be interesting visualization work with such data.
    • The EPA STORET database has a great deal of data on water and water quality. There is a great need to bring together multiple related data sets of this type to help drive a better understanding of water issues overall. One tool that builds on this is the Water Quality Exchange
    • A huge collection of city-related data designed to enable exploration
    • There's a number of great environmental related sources of data that have APIs you could draw from and combine
      • Twitter posts
      • Walkscore.com
      • Zillow.com
    • Data.gov contains a huge number of data sets
    • Platforms like Ushahidi allow you to rapidly create a system for collecting data from many people (possibly useful in a final project stage if you continue this mini project later in the semester)
    • Mobile phones can be used to collect a wide range of data. Difficult to gather now, but some great data sets already exist that you could play with for this project. If you're interested in this sort of data, ask me and I can also hook you up with local context data sets, potentially.

    Deliverables

    AS A GROUP you should:

    • Step one: By 2/1 select a dataset [email this to the instructor]
    • Step two: Create your mashup
    • Step three: Show it to at least three people and talk to them about it
    • Step four: your presentation for the critique on 2/13
      • General overview of what you did
        • Be sure to talk about the data set you chose (and why)
        • Be sure to talk about the narrative you created and why chose your visualization
        • Be sure to talk about what things you juxtaposed and why
        • Be sure to talk about how people responded to it
        • Walk us through your process
        • Anything else you think is really important
    • By 2/13 (latest, midnight) Post to the ETS class Accomplishments "blog" with a brief writeup including at least one image of what you did.

    Individually you should: 

    By 2/13, EACH PERSON in your group should write up a single page documenting what you did and what you learned from it. 
    Objectively reflect on 
    your group's project and answer the following questions:
    • Why do you think it worked or did not work?
    • What other approaches did you consider? If you had other ideas, this is your chance to explain it.
    • What would you do differently the next time?
    • Rate each person you worked with by name based on how much they contributed (more than others (+), less than others (-), or about the same as others (=)). An average rating will be reported back to each person privately after the first 4 assignments are done and will affect your grade if it is consistently less than others (-).
    Subpages (1): Stepgreen
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