[wdmmg-discuss] Does anyone have any thoughts for this post on open data?

Dan Brickley danbri at danbri.org
Mon Jun 21 12:19:26 BST 2010

On Mon, Jun 21, 2010 at 11:56 AM, K Corrick
<kathryn.corrick at googlemail.com> wrote:
> Hello,
> This article by Dan McQuillan:
> Open data doesn't empower communities
> http://www.internetartizans.co.uk/open_data_does_not_empower
> "Open data doesn't empower communities. I'm not saying open data is a bad
> thing, but we need to highlight the gap between the semantic web and social
> impact. Otherwise we'll continue to get swept along on a tide of
> technocratic enthusiasm where hope lies in 'a flood of data to create a
> data-literate citizenry'...."
> Its currently getting a lot of attention on Twitter and some interesting
> feeback. I was just wondering if anyone from the WDMMG team like to post a
> comment to give our take on what he's saying?

It has some affinity with Lessig's more detailed "against
transparency" (http://www.hyperorg.com/blogger/2009/10/12/lessigs-against-transparency-a-walkthrough/

The post strikes me as a recycled-in-radical-dress version of the
technocrat objection to openness, ie. that the masses couldn't really
understand this stuff anyway, and that any attempt to make bulky raw
data accessible necessarily introduces perspective and distortion, so
better to leave such things in the hands of professionals.

The simplest answer is modesty, to note that open data (of all
flavours, not just govt) is only part of the path towards helping
people understand the world around them. Some understanding will come
from raw facts, more may come from eg. video and documentary
materials. In RDF terms, triples are a means to an end not an end in

If visualisations of the raw data can be embedded in eg. blogs and
wikis, and those who disagree about their proper interpretation given
mechanisms to air those disagreements in some structured form, to me
it still feels like progress...


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