Data Walk: Accountability, Transparency, Accessibility, and Openness


How do people in their communities interact with data, and to what extent are those data accessible? In urban environments, data on construction and urban development initiatives are widely available. However, the extent to which individuals engage with these data is unclear. For our data walk, we surveyed street-level construction information available near Lake Union in Seattle’s U District, with a particular focus on signage and noticeboards. Though data is potentially a powerful tool for public good, it becomes clear that it is still just a tool and that the complications and difficult choices of any land use public policy are still present.

The walk raised several questions about how data is made available and how the community responds to data.


Ultimately, our short data walk from the streets of Seattle’s University district to the waterfront revealed the massive amounts of data that surround us. More than that, the walk revealed the myriad ways in which we can interpret these data. While our group focused on data transparency and accessibility, other groups focused on different aspects of data exploration. Our ability to understand data is driven by the lenses that we view data through; the data that we see, while the same as what others see, may be interpreted vastly differently. As we begin our projects, considerations to such lenses will be essential, both to maximize our chances of an ethical and successful project as well as to control the negative effects that bias plays in all data science.