Steve Lohr at the New York Times: “For years, the federal government, states and some cities have enthusiastically made vast troves of data open to the public. Acres of paper records on demographics, public health, traffic patterns, energy consumption, family incomes and many other topics have been digitized and posted on the web.
This abundance of data can be a gold mine for discovery and insights, but finding the nuggets can be arduous, requiring special skills.
A project coming out of the M.I.T. Media Lab on Monday seeks to ease that challenge and to make the value of government data available to a wider audience. The project, called Data USA, bills itself as “the most comprehensive visualization of U.S. public data.” It is free, and its software code is open source, meaning that developers can build custom applications by adding other data.
Cesar A. Hidalgo, an assistant professor of media arts and sciences at the M.I.T. Media Lab who led the development of Data USA, said the website was devised to “transform data into stories.” Those stories are typically presented as graphics, charts and written summaries….Type “New York” into the Data USA search box, and a drop-down menu presents choices — the city, the metropolitan area, the state and other options. Select the city, and the page displays an aerial shot of Manhattan with three basic statistics: population (8.49 million), median household income ($52,996) and median age (35.8).
Lower on the page are six icons for related subject categories, including economy, demographics and education. If you click on demographics, one of the so-called data stories appears, based largely on data from the American Community Survey of the United States Census Bureau.
Using colorful graphics and short sentences, it shows the median age of foreign-born residents of New York (44.7) and of residents born in the United States (28.6); the most common countries of origin for immigrants (the Dominican Republic, China and Mexico); and the percentage of residents who are American citizens (82.8 percent, compared with a national average of 93 percent).
Data USA features a selection of data results on its home page. They include the gender wage gap in Connecticut; the racial breakdown of poverty in Flint, Mich.; the wages of physicians and surgeons across the United States; and the institutions that award the most computer science degrees….(More)