Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Seminar: 101 maps, or thereabouts: why data visualisation is only part of the story

Dr Alasdair Rae
Senior Lecturer in Urban Studies and Planning

28th April 2016 | 12 noon | RC-204 Lecture Room in Information School, Regent Court

No need to book.

In this talk I discuss some recent data-driven projects, covering housing markets, commuting, internet search and neighbourhood deprivation. These projects involve collaboration with partners or funders such as Rightmove, Google, the Bank of England, the Department for Transport and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. What they all have in common is that I was seeking to find answers in data and communicate the results in visually meaningful ways, in order to make some kind of contribution to policy, practice or understanding. This kind of approach often helps capture the attention of policymakers and draw attention to important issues. In this sense, then, it takes numbers out of the domain of data and towards information and knowledge and, it is hoped, wisdom (i.e. 'what should we do?'). But such normative questions cannot be answered by analysing or visualising data, no matter how captivating or illuminating it may be. At the same time, it doesn't mean that we should stop doing it. Rather, I argue that we need to think carefully about maps, data and other forms of information and their contribution to knowledge. I look forward to hearing your views on the topic.

Alasdair Rae is a Senior Lecturer in Urban Studies and Planning and Director of the Sheffield Q-Step Centre. Alasdair's work focuses on housing, neighbourhoods, spatial interaction, deprivation and visualisation. He mainly publishes in urban and regional journals and also regularly contributes pieces to a variety of media outlets (e.g. The Guardian, CityMetric, The Huffington Post). Recently, he's worked with Rightmove, Google and a range of funders (including The Bank of England) on projects which attempt to make sense of new datasets. He has a PhD from the University of Liverpool, an MA from The Ohio State University and a BA(Hons) from the University of Strathclyde.

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