Open Data and Visualizations

How can we engage and empower the public with open data?


Image credit: Mauro Mora on

Despite an abundance of data and prevalent open data initiatives from democratic governments, there are many unknowns about how to make open data truly accessible, engaging, and empowering to the general public.

We present results from an interview study with 19 Canadians from diverse demographic and occupational backgrounds on their experiences, attitudes, and barriers regarding open government data and visualizations of open data, specifically in the energy domain. We observe among participants three categories of receptiveness to taking in new information on the topic of energy: Data-Interpretation-Receptive (DI-R), Interpretation-Receptive (I-R), and Data-Interpretation-Avoidant (DI-A). For each category, we unpack the barriers, values, and needs of participants, while identifying opportunities for open data and visualizations of open data to better inform, engage, and empower diverse members of the public. Our findings suggest a need for open data and open data visualizations for the public to move beyond a “one-size-fits-all” approach by considering the needs of data-interpretation-avoidant, interpretation-receptive, and data-interpretation-receptive as a step towards broadening the accessibly of open data.

Access the technical report here:  Helen Ai He, Jagoda Walny, Sonja Thoma, Wesley Willett, Sheelagh Carpendale. (November, 2019). “Discussing Open Energy Data and Data Visualizations with Canadians.” Technical Report. 61 pages. Department of Computer Science, University of Calgary.

This project was part of the Energy Visualization Project, at the University of Calgary, Interactions Lab, with Prof. Sheelagh Carpendale, and Prof. Wesley Willett and in collaboration with Canada Energy Regulator (CER).