Big data can be used for good--from tracking disease to exposing human rights violations--and for bad--implementing surveillance and control. Data inevitably represents the ideologies of those who control its use; data analytics and algorithms too often exclude women, the poor, and ethnic groups. In Data Action, Sarah Williams provides a guide for working with data in more ethical and responsible ways. Too often data has been used--and manipulated--to make policy decisions without much stakeholder input. Williams outlines a method that emphasizes collaboration among data scientists, policy experts, data designers, and the public. This approach creates trust and co-ownership in the data by opening the process to those who know the issues best.
Finally, this work is useful for the planning profession and discipline, especially for those who think algorithmic bias and data production issues are confined to Silicon Valley and are searching for a bridge to translate the power issues behind tech and data into urban planning terms. It is appropriate for urbanists, imaginative planning practitioners, academics, and students, and with its glossy pages, heaps of color figures, and landscape layout, the coffee table will enjoy it as well.
-- the Journal of the American Planning Association
Data Action a perfect fusion of historical framing, critical reflection, and how-to instruction powerfully demonstrates how collaborative, methodologically pluralistic, reflective, and publicly responsive modes of data design can incite civic change.
--Shannon Mattern, Professor of Anthropology, The New School; author of Code and Clay, Data and Dirt: 5000 Years of Urban Media
There is nobody who understands the theory and practice of engaged civic data visualization better than Sarah Williams. Her reflective, absolutely fearless guide to the complexities of knowledge and power in this often-thorny domain distills her decades of experience into a single, indispensable volume a pure gift to the aspiring practitioner.
-- Adam Greenfield, author of Radical Technologies: The Design of Everyday Life
Data Action is a much needed, accessible guide to our complex digital world. Writing with clarity, Williams curates both appalling and inspiring examples to move us to act.
-- Annette Kim, Director of SLAB, Associate Professor at the University of Southern California Price School of Public Policy
Sarah Williams is an urbanist and a designer and Data Action asks about the ways in which we can use data to reshape urban space. Some of them are not so good. For those interested in the history of the interactions between urban planning and spatial data, for better and for worse, this book tells a compelling story. You will learn to stand your ground and insist that data be used responsibly in making cities and urban life better. For Williams, this is a matter of the utmost ethical and political urgency, of action. So, she weaves her own design work and breathtaking maps into a complex history of geographic information systems, a field that needs to be reckoned with if we want to take action. Williams performs this reckoning with didactic precision and fresh design strategies that demand our attention.
--Laura Kurgan, Professor of Architecture and Director, Center for Spatial Research, Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation (GSAPP), Columbia University