Over the last week I’ve been sharing a short series of articles exploring the past, present and future of (open) data portals. This comes as part of a piece of work I’m doing for the Open Data Institute on ‘Data Platforms and Citizen Engagement’.
The work starts from the premise that data portals have been an integral part of the open data movement. Indeed, for many (myself included) the open data movement was crystallised with, or first discovered through, the launch of platforms like Data.gov and Data.gov.uk. However, we are going on to ask whether, a decade on, portals still have a role to play? And if so, what might that role most usefully be? Ultimately, we’re asking if, and if so, how, portals might be (re-)shaped as effective platforms to support ongoing ambitions for open data to support meaningful citizen participation in all its forms.
Over the course of a short rapid research sprint I’ve been pulling at a couple of threads that might contribute to that inquiry. The goal has been to carry out some groundwork to support the next stage of the project: which we are hoping will take the form of some sort of design excercises, accompanied by a number of deeper conversations and possibly further research. I overshot my initial plan of spending five days ‘catching up’ with what’s been happening in the portal landscape since I last looked, not least because the simple answer is – a lot’s been happening. And, at the same time, if you compare a portal from 2012 with the same one today, the answer to the question ‘What’s changed?’ often also seems to be, not very much. The breadth and depth of work constructing and critiquing portals across the world is both impressive, and oppressive. It seems that, collectively, we know there are problems with portals, but, there is much less consensus on the way forward.
Each post in this series has tried to look at ‘the portals problem’ from one specific perspective, aiming to provide some shared context that might assist in future conversations. The posts are all over on PubPub, where they’re open to comment (free sign-up needed):
Terminology: When is a portal not a portal?
Technology: A genealogy of data portals
Experiments: Selected examples of data portals
Organisational: The people and processes behind the portals
Engagement: Portals and participation
Speculation: Focussed futures: the portal as…
If, after exploring some of these, you think you might be interested in joining some of the open design sprint work we’re planning for next year to build on this exploration – and on parallel strands of research that have been taking place (likely involving some online or in-person full and half-day sessions in early Feb) do drop me a line via twitter or (for this project only) my ODI e-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org and I can share more info as plans firm up.