“In a knowledge-rich world, progress does not lie in the direction of reading and writing information faster or storing more of it. Progress lies in the direction of extracting and exploiting the patterns of the world so that far less information needs to be read, written, or stored.” (Herbert Simon, 1971)
While the availability of big data and the advancement of methods to analyze them allow researchers to test hypotheses and validate theories, it is not clear how it can facilitate exploration and inductive understanding of social phenomena especially when data is unstructured, making it less amenable to quantification and computation.
Making complex inter-related information, not just available, but truly accessible, is critical for an informed society. The Open Data Innovation Project (ODIN) project seeks to make textual data repositories useable rather than simply available by processing and visualizing text data for human sensemaking. We encourage you to watch the tutorial video, explore the guided walkthoughs and experience the platform yourself!
U.S. law provides boundless access to data about U.S. lawmaking to the public: the language of different versions of bills, their cosponsors, the citizens and PACs that donate to them, lobbying data, the meetings regulators have with the general public, and of course, public comment on administrative rulemaking. Unfortunately, these data are made available in different formats across repositories. Although all the information needed for public self-education is theoretically available, it is simply not sufficiently integrated to make the legislative process readily transparent. The release of abundant but separate data files does little to effectuate real knowledge and curbs what could be a very informed and engaged U.S. populous.
With a planning grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), we collected open data arising from the passing of the Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act of 2012 (JOBS Act). The act was publicly deliberated by many groups, which left an abundance of fragmented open data including: different versions of bills, amendments, co-sponsors, activity of political action committees, details of regulators’ meetings with the general public, and public comment on administrative rulemaking. In particular, we combined data from GovTrack with full-text data from the Congressional Record. This data serves as the test bed for ODIN and shows the value of integrating and linking various data types. We present here the following guided walkthoughs:
Beyond the previous use cases, ODIN allows for open-ended exploration of various data sets. Right now we have a version for our target application the JOBS Act. In addition, we offer a full version with multiple data sets from different domains and more advanced options.
ODIN is an open-source project. It can be used with all kind of data. We appreciate community feedback and contribution!