Visualizing the News in Georgia (feradi.info)

Overview

Dates: 
01/11/2012 to 31/10/2013
Donor: 
Open Society Foundations
Donor Amount: 
USD 65,544
Social: 

When we look around the Georgian civil society and media landscape, we are more concerned about what we do not see than what we do. There is a litany of reports and lengthy issue analyses, and ultimately some will reach an audience that reads them. Even fewer motivate an audience to do something.

What we do not see are other means to engage people around issues that initiate discussion and motivate action. Outside of Georgia we see many attempts, sometimes experimental, to go beyond just words to draw attention to a wide variety of social, political, environmental and human rights issues.

These attempts often take the form of graphics with a broad spectrum of interactivity that convey information that words and numbers alone cannot, and allow people to explore a topic in novel ways. This method often reaches a wider audience than text alone would have.

We seek funding to implement a 12-month project that augments current discussions about local issues with online data visualizations, both static and interactive, in a way that few NGOs in Georgia, if any, can. Journalism at its core, we bring to the table our data analysis, code and design skills we have honed in previous projects to add value to issues that matter to Georgians today.

The overarching goals of this project are to increase public conversation around important issues, increase the quality and frequency of computer-assisted/data journalism and storytelling, put facts before rumour, and increase the demand for more open, accessible, and relevant data and innovation critical to understanding the important issues in Georgia.

Activities

There are five main components to this project:

  1. media analysis (what are and are not the media discussing), convening people on a regular basis to gauge what issues are important at any given moment, and choosing which of those are actionable (editorial process);
  2. gathering, cleaning, validating and repositing data relevant to the issues about which we will design our data visualizations and stories;
  3. analysing the data to find the story;
  4. designing the visualizations and stories and publishing them on a dedicated site; and
  5. distributing the visualizations and stories widely; using them to advocate for more data, better data, better use of data, and increase awareness, momentum, and excitement around new ways to deliver news and convey messages among stakeholders, including journalists, NGOs, government agencies, designers, and coders.

Media Analysis, Convening People, and Filtering the News

We’ll analyze the main media outlets daily to see what news journalists are and are not reporting. Using RSS feeds, Google Alerts, video streaming, and other methods, we’ll be able to quickly scan and process the news from a variety of news organizations of varying slants from both in Tbilisi and the regions.

We will meet with people who have their finger on the pulse of what is happening and important in Georgian society right now. This will be a regular and constant activity and the source by which we choose what data and information to seek out and explore. In addition to this, we will establish regular meetups to solidify a mechanism of gathering information about what is important at any given moment.

We will select issues and stories that we think are actionable. This process will be part of both an internal editorial process and input from selected relevant individuals.

Getting the Data

While we are always looking for data to explore and use, for this project we will seek out data relevant to the topics we glean from meetups and discussions about what is important now in Georgia.

We have learned well that relying on a single source for data is risky. We will reach out to organizations and agencies we know to hold information related to our stories, but we will not settle with one source. Similar data often resides in more than one agency’s possession and we will approach each one.

We also will build a platform to record and store data we aggregate ourselves in the process of analyzing the media. Using the Ruby on Rails Web framework, very similar to the Washington Post’s Django platform, we intend to internalize what Adrian Holovaty intended in creating Django by avoiding the ‘lost opportunity’:

If all of your information is stored in the same "news article" bucket, you can't easily pull out just the crimes and plot them on a map of the city. You can't easily grab the events to create an event calendar. You end up settling on the least common denominator: a Web site that knows how to display one type of content, a big blob of text. That Web site cannot do the cool things that readers are beginning to expect.

The goal is to be able to have a baseline of information that we can draw on when necessary that either does not reside anywhere else or by which we might compare official data.

The data will be cleaned if necessary, validated, and then stored publicly for use in our designs. The data will be formatted relevant to its content, but always in open and standard formats, such as xml, json, xlsx, et al. and accessible via our open API.

Exploring the Data and Finding the Story

With data in hand, we will begin analysing it for trends, outliers and anything that adds dimensions to the issues we want to explore and which we think are newsworthy. These elements are the crux around which the story emerges.

Creating the Graphics

Once a particular choice is made on the story or message, we will design a meaningful visual interpretation. This might be a static infographic, but more interestingly and Web-oriented, it might be interactive and/or exploratory. Even with a particular angle, often it is important to create a way for people to explore the data. Either way, it leads to the opportunity to visualize the data and or create tools to explore it in meaningful ways.

Once we have created the design, we will publish it to a dedicated site, not unlike David McCandless’ Information is Beautiful.

Our goal is that our interactive visualizations will rely on the same API that we would have others use. By using our own API as a service, we will enhance its usability by others.

Spreading the Word

Crucial to the success of this project is that people see the visualizations and explore the data. We cannot challenge journalists to improve their storytelling if they are not aware of the work we are doing. Similarly, if we are unable to inspire people to want to do similar work, the demand for data will not increase.

For each visualization and tool we design, we will meet with relevant stakeholders - NGOs, businesses, government agencies, schools and journalists - to discuss not just the issue at hand, but how and why we approached it the way we did. We will also use meetups or a similar forum to do the same thing. In addition, we will use our newsletter and social media outlets to disseminate our work as widely as possible.

Both by initially convening people in-the-know and by follow-up meetings and shoutouts, we will gain an audience to advocate for more quality data-driven news, increased awareness of how access to data plays an important role in informing the public, and increasingly innovative ways to deliver messages and stories.

Outputs

  • A datastore that will be the source (API) for the graphics we design, as well as a highly robust and flexible information recording platform ready to meet our needs even as they change.
  • A website where our designs will be published with space for commentary and discussion. Each graphic will be shareable and embeddable so that others may use it. We will track traffic and usage (who is using our graphics).
  • Approximately 4 visualizations a month.
  • Ongoing blogs about the tech behind the stories/graphics.
  • Weekly meetups centered on what’s happening in Georgia that is important to people.

 

29 May 2014

Storytelling: An Agent of Creativity and Change in Georgia

You cannot (and should not) just throw a spreadsheet into someone's lap and expect that to make your case. Nor can you expect most busy people to read a thirty-page report. What you can do is break research and communication into chunks or stages. Organizations should view each chunk as an opportunity to communicate with one or many potential audiences. Explore what media speaks to each target audience.


15 April 2014

Visualizing for Data-driven Advocacy: New Partners, New Projects

Over the past several months, JumpStart has been hard at work launching the project Visualizing for Data-Driven Advocacy. Within the framework of this exciting new project, we have teamed up with four local civil society organizations to add value to their advocacy campaigns through data analysis and visualization. Not only have we provided monthly trainings and educational material so that our partners can learn to run effective advocacy campaigns using data, but we’ve lent our expertise in data collection, analysis and visualization to their efforts.


27 February 2014

Useful Tools For Data Journalists

On February 13 2014, a group of around 20 individuals, most of whom were journalists, activists, students, and programmers, gathered in the central Tbilisi office of JumpStart Georgia for a screening of the documentary film Our Currency is Information, created by the Tactical Tech Collective; a US based non-governmental organization dedicated to the use of information in activism.


20 January 2014

Visualizing for Data-driven Advocacy: A Useful Checklist

Whether your organization is a big International Non-Governmental Organization that enjoys widespread visibility, or a small locally based Civil Society Organization, you could probably use some help to ensure that your campaigns are effective in delivering your message to the intended audience. While campaigners, governments, and donors have become increasingly aware of the power of data, it can still be hard to figure out what opportunities exist for your own organization. What data is persuasive? What does it take to manage it? How can it best be presented and to what audience? Essentially, how can data best be used in your advocacy campaign?


15 November 2012

Seeking Project Manager

JumpStart Georgia is pleased to announce an opening for an energetic and motivated project manager for our new project, Visualizing the News in Georgia.

To read about this project in detail, please check out:

http://jumpstart.ge/en/projects/visualizing-the-news-in-georgia


Public Workshop: Telling Stories With Data

JumpStart Georgia will hold a workshop open to the public on what data is and why it's important when telling stories for journalism and advocacy. Specifically, we will discuss  what we mean by structured data, how to get structured data on a variety of topics in  Georgia, and how this data can be analyzed and communicated in a variety of ways. We will look at what tools exist that make it easier to collect, analyze, and communicate data to tell stories and advocate for change. The workshop, open to the public, will target civil society organizations and journalists.

  • 30/04/2014 - 15:00 to 17:00

Film Screening: From My Point of View & Unseen Wars

On Thursday 06 March, JumpStart Georgia will host a screening of two documentary films, From My Point of View and Unseen War, created by the Tactical Tech Collective. These two films are the second and third episodes of the documentary film series Exposing the Invisible by Tactical Tech.

  • 06/03/2014 - 19:30 to 20:30

Film Screening: Our Currency Is Information

On Thursday 13 February, JumpStart Georgia will host a screening of the documentary film Our Currency is Information, created by the Tactical Tech Collective. Our Currency is Information is the first episode of the documentary film series Exposing the Invisible by Tactical Tech. In this episode you will learn about methods for investigating corruption and organized crime.

  • 13/02/2014 - 19:30 to 21:00

Coloring Communication with Data

On Tuesday 28th of January, JumpStart Georgia will be hosting an exciting all-day event ‘Coloring Communication with Data’ at the Europe House in central Tbilisi. At JumpStart Georgia, we believe that visualizing data is the key to effective communication. Visualizations can help to strengthen the connections between raw data and the information and messages your data contains. The way data is framed and presented visually can help sway decision makers and other target audiences in the right direction by giving weight and clarity to your argument.

  • 28/01/2014 (All day)