Medialab Prado


Visualizar'09: Public Data, Data in Public · Call for projects and papers

The Medialab-Prado programme issues a call for the presentation of projects and papers to be collectively produced and presented publicly within the framework of the Visualizar’09 event, to be held from 12 to 27 November 2009.

Directed by José Luis de Vicente

With the support of Bestiario

In collaboration with the Open Knowledge Foundation

Deadline for proposals: October 5, 2009

Leading tutors: Ben Cerveny (Stamen), Aaron Koblin, and Andrés Ortiz (Bestiario) (first week);  Manuel Lima and Santiago Ortiz (Bestiario) (second week).

> List of selected projects and papers 
> Call for collaborators
(through November 11, 2009)
> Seminar Program (November 12 and 13, 2009) 
> General information about the event

Photo: In the air

>go to Project Submission form and call guidelines
>go to Paper Submission form and call guidelines



Since 2007, Medialab Prado’s Visualizar programme has explored the social, cultural and artistic implications of data culture and proposed methodologies to make them more understandable and open paths for participation and criticism.

At the first two annual Visualizar events, almost a hundred participants from Spain and abroad collaborated with international experts in the field of data visualization in developing seventeen prototypes that tell stories through data: from measuring atmospheric pollution in the streets of Madrid to the conversations held by users of social webs such as Twitter. Each year, Visualizar also includes a specialized symposium, educational activities open to the public, and an exhibit of the projects carried out.

In 2009, Visualizar will highlight the importance of data structures today in public decision-making and governance processes. There is a growing movement in favour of making databases generated by scientific research and the vast quantities of data generated by public administrations available to everyone, in formats that make it possible to reuse them and foster citizen innovation processes. What are the social benefits of fostering a culture of free, open data?


Visualizar'09: Public Data, Data in Public

In 2004, the Ministers of Science from all the OECD nations signed a declaration whereby they agreed that all data financed by public monies should be made available to all citizens. Since then, the Open Data movement, similar to the free software and culture movement, has been growing and acquiring increasingly significant support, overcoming difficulties and obstacles.

The arguments in favour of opening large databases run from the need to prevent the privatization of data that by definition have no owner, such as gene sequences and basic environmental data, to the more general view that facts are not intellectual property. Facilitating the use of data from research financed with public monies, or being able to use and reshape fundamental data resources such as cartographic data are some of the aims of pro Open Data initiatives.


Free Data for Better Science

Data generated by each specific scientific research project have significant additional value: they enable other scientists to initiate new projects thanks to the availability of these data. Providing access to the “data set” of each project makes it possible to save resources, avoid the duplication of efforts, and raise the level of ambition and complexity in each new research project. However, in fields like biotechnology, the fierce intellectual property protection of various biomedical companies has led to a lack of available data, which hinders the development of new research projects in numerous fields.

Organizations such as Science Commons are in favour of turning the data sets generated by each scientific and academic institution into a large community resource available to all the researchers in the world.


Open data for a transparent government

On his first day as President of the United States, Barack Obama signed a memorandum in favour of transparent, open governmental practices. In May, became operational. It is a portal where his administration provides access to standard formats that can be reused on multiple datasets generated by the various governmental agencies.

Governmental activity generates huge amounts of data, and making that data available to everyone who wishes to examine it in depth or reuse it for new purposes has become one of the essential good practices for E-government policies. Organizations such as the Sunlight Foundation in the United States or MySociety in Great Britain are in favour of freeing and giving access to data as an essential measure in fostering a more transparent government and a more participatory democracy.


Data for Public Debate

The end goal of fostering a culture of the transparency of data is to make public discussion and debate possible regarding the political, social and scientific processes that have generated said data. Consequently, one of the objectives of Visualizar 09 will be the development of new strategies for communicating these data and returning them to the public domain.

To do so, in addition to using formats such as software applications, maps or infographs, the projects may use the LED screen soon to be installed on the facade of Medialab-Prado, in order to research what type of functions these devices can carry out to improve communication and dialogue with citizens.


Orientation for projects and papers:

The projects and papers submitted to this call should explore issues such as:

  • How to facilitate the use and understanding of data from public administrations and scientific research, whether it is academic or not.
  • How to foster citizen innovation processes and public decision-making and governance processes.
  • How to set up participatory data gathering mechanisms.
  • Proposed formulas for presenting data in the public arena.


Five Repositories of Public Data

U.S. government portal where data generated by various government agencies is published in standard formats.


As a priority Open Government Initiative for President Obama's administration, increases the ability of the public to easily find, download, and use datasets that are generated and held by the Federal Government. provides descriptions of the Federal datasets (metadata), information about how to access the datasets, and tools that leverage government datasets. The data catalogs will continue to grow as datasets are added. Federal, Executive Branch data are included in the first version of

UN Data

Access service to United Nations Statistics Division datasets.

The United Nations Statistics Division (UNSD) of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) has launched a new internet-based data service for the global user community. It brings UN statistical databases within easy reach of users through a single entry point ( from which users can now search and download a variety of statistical resources of the UN System.

Public Resource

Foundation engaged in facilitating access via the Internet to hard-to-find governmental documents in the public domain. Founded by Carl Malamud, a pioneer activist in advocacy for open institutional data.

Public.Resource.Org is a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation dedicated to publishing and sharing public domain materials in the United States.[1] It was founded by Carl Malamud and is based out of Sebastopol, California. Their motto is “Making Government Information More Accessible”. As of 2008[update], the organization operated on an annual budget of around US$1 million, most of which was spent on acquiring the rights to and scanning public works.

Open Secrets

Databases of donations to political parties in the United States. After over 20 years’ work, this year it has published its entire database, which can be accessed and downloaded, thanks to the support of the Sunlight Foundation. is your nonpartisan guide to money’s influence on U.S. elections and public policy. Whether you’re a voter, journalist, activist, student or interested citizen, use our free site to shine light on your government. Count cash and make change.

District of Columbia Data Catalog

The city of Washington DC pioneered the creation of a repository of datasets generated by its municipal departments, in standard formats which foster their use in the development of applications and visualizations.

For years the District of Columbia has provided public access to city operational data through the Internet. Now the District provides citizens with the access to 291 datasets from multiple agencies, a catalyst ensuring agencies operate as more responsive, better performing organizations. Use the data catalog below to subscribe to a live data feed in Atom format and access data in XML, Text/CSV, KML or ESRI Shapefile formats


Five Organizations, Initiatives and Interest Groups

Open Knowledge Foundation

The Open Knowledge Foundation (OKF) is a not-for-profit organization founded in 2004 and dedicated to promoting open knowledge in all its forms. It is a leader in this field nationally and internationally.
The Foundation's activities are organized around individual working groups and projects, each focused on a different aspect of open knowledge, but united by a common set of concerns, and a common set of traditions in both etiquette and process. These are explained in more is detail on the governance page, but can be summarized as:

    * Open discussion
    * Meritocracy
    * Tolerance


Sunlight Foundation

Foundation that seeks to promote governmental transparency through making resources and applications available via the Internet which enable citizens to investigate and gain deeper knowledge of the government’s actions.

The Sunlight Foundation was co-founded in 2006 by Washington, DC businessman and lawyer Michael Klein and longtime Washington public interest advocate Ellen Miller with the non-partisan mission of using the revolutionary power of the Internet to make information about Congress and the federal government more meaningfully accessible to citizens. Through our projects and grant-making, Sunlight serves as a catalyst for greater political transparency and to foster more openness and accountability in government. Sunlight’s ultimate goal is to strengthen the relationship between citizens and their elected officials and to foster public trust in government. We are unique in that technology and the power of the Internet are at the core of every one of our efforts.

Our work is committed to helping citizens, bloggers and journalists be their own best government watchdogs, by improving access to existing information and digitizing new information, and by creating new tools and Web sites to enable all of us to collaborate in fostering greater transparency. Since our founding in the spring of 2006, we have assembled and funded an array of web-based databases and tools including,,, and These sites make millions of bits of information available online about the members of Congress, their staff, legislation, federal spending and lobbyists.

Apps for Democracy

Contest for citizen development of applications based on public data made available by the Data Catalogue of the city of Washington DC.

In the fall of 2008, DC’s Office of the Chief Technology Officer asked  iStrategyLabs how it could make’s revolutionary Data Catalog useful for the citizens, visitors, businesses and government agencies of Washington, DC. The Data Catalog contains all manner of open public data featuring real-time crime feeds, school test scores, and poverty indicators, and is the most comprehensive of its kind in the world.

Our solution was to create Apps for Democracy – a contest that cost Washington, DC $50,000 and returned 47 iPhone, Facebook and web applications with an estimated value in excess of $2,600,000 to the city.

Now, DC wants to hear citizens’ ideas about problems that could be solved through technology, as well as their ideas about the perfect system to receive feedback and service requests.  Through blog posts, email surveys, video testimonials, voice call-in captures, twitter update submissions, and in-person town halls, iStrategyLabs will seek to engage the populace of Washington, DC to ask for their input into what they’d like to see in the form of a DC Community Platform.

Our goal is to receive insight from at least 5000 citizens of Washington, DC in a week period beginning May 4th (submit your insights here). iStrategyLabs will produce a citywide “Social Citizen Sunday” event on May 17th, during which people will be encouraged to capture insights from their neighbors. The team that captures the deepest and broadest insights possible will be rewarded with a $1000 “Social Citizen Award” and public recognition incentives for their participation

DIY City

Initiative that aims to open and make public and interoperable data generated by urban services and infrastructures (schedule and location of transport networks, electricity and water consumption data, etc.), for the purpose of developing citizen applications from the bottom up.

DIYcity: How do you want to reinvent your city?

Our cities today are relics from a time before the Internet. Services and infrastructure, created and operated by the government, are centrally managed, non-participatory and closed. And while this was once the best (and only) way for cities to operate, today it leads to a system that is inefficient, increasingly expensive to maintain, and slow to change.

What is needed right now is a new type of city: a city that is like the Internet in its openness, participation, distributed nature and rapid, organic evolution - a city that is not centrally operated, but that is created, operated and improved upon by all - a DIY City.

This is the DIYcity Challenge: can we, working together, define and build a version 1.0 of the Do-It-Yourself City, a city that operates on open data flowing through decentralized, open source tools, that actively engages residents not only as users but as participants and owners of the system?

Can we build this not only for our own individual cities, but for cities everywhere? Can we build an open toolset that any city, anywhere in the world, can access, modify to suit their needs, and deploy on their own terms?

Can we build this in one year? In six months? In three months?

Shall we get started?

My Society

Pioneering British organization for developing projects on the Internet that foster citizen participation in governmental processes, and make institutional processes transparent. Initiatives such as They Work for You (a database indexed to all actions by British Members of Parliament) or Fix My Street (a service to inform local authorities of problems on the streets) are fundamental references for discourses on Open Government and Transparency.

mySociety is a community of volunteers and (paid) open source coders.

mySociety runs most of the best-known democracy and transparency websites in the UK, sites like TheyWorkForYou and WriteToThem (which way back in the dawn of time was called FaxYourMP).

mySociety is a not-for-profit company that builds websites of a democratic bent for other people, such as the No 10 Downing Street Petitions Website, for the Prime Minister’s Office

mySociety has two missions. The first is to be a charitable project which builds websites that give people simple, tangible benefits in the civic and community aspects of their lives. The second is to teach the public and voluntary sectors, through demonstration, how to use the internet most efficiently to improve lives.

TheyWorkForYou, WriteToThem (which used to be called FaxYourMP) and FixMyStreet are all examples of the type of service that we aim to foster. But it is exactly the rarity of such really useful, effective, cheap civic sites that led to mySociety’s creation.

mySociety was founded in September 2003. We spent the first year raising money and soliciting the public and each other for ideas. Our first funding arrived in September 2004, at which point we started working furiously, launching WriteToThem, PledgeBank and HearFromYourMP all before the end of 2005. In 2006 we built and launched the No 10 Downing Street Petitions Website and FixMyStreet. In 2008, we’ve launched WhatDoTheyKnow and started the FreeOurBills campaign.


Five Projects and Applications

European Parlament Votes

This application records and makes it possible to track each member of the European Parliament’s votes of over the course of the entire legislative session, degree of involvement in parliamentary activity and their positions on certain issues.

EP Vote tracks the votes in the European Parliament. It is an innovative tool for anyone who wants to know more about the EU legislation and the MEPs’ votes; it gives an overview of the voting, according to the country, political groups and MEPs.

We provide indispensable information for anyone who is doing research, writing, analyzing or simply interested in lawmaking at the EU level.

Stamen Travel Time Maps

Visualization by Stamen made for MySociety that shows the price of housing in each area of London and the distance to certain places in the city. Its purpose is to locate places to live within a certain distance from a workplace. 

MySociety, an NGO which builds websites that give people simple, tangible benefits in the civic and community aspects of their lives, came to Stamen with a remit to explore two fascinating datasets: median prices of homes throughout London, and the time it takes to travel from one place to another throughout the city.

Both of these datasets are fairly well understood, if not widely available for public consumption in graphic format. We thought that we could add the most value to people's experience of this material if we did two things: provided an exploratory (as opposed to search-based) way to navigate, and also combined the information into a set of interactive pieces that let you explore the various parameters on your own.

For example, you may have decided you want to spend £200k on a house, and live within 1/2 hour of your work, and it's simple enough to search for that information. But what if the results that come back aren't quite to your liking, and you can't find a neighborhood that meets those parameters? Normally, you'd have to go back to the beginning, twiddle your search terms one way or the other, and start again.

By introducing a set of sliders which control travel time as well as median house price displays, we can let you explore the data on your own terms. If you're willing to pay a bit more to live a little closer to work, for example, you can quickly adjust the sliders to reflect those choices, without having to go back to the beginning and start searching all over again.

We think this way of interacting with information—exploring as opposed to searching—has alot to recommend it as more and more data moves onto our screens and into our lives.

Ride Time Pittsburgh

Iphone application that coordinates real time public transport schedules in Pitsburgh with the decision to leave home and head toward a specific location.

Ride Time is a web application and service for the iPhone to help you plan your time around your bus routes.

After a short user study, we determined that our target audience would be students and commuters who frequent the same bus routes on a regular basis. This focus made looking up new routes much less important than having a detailed view into common routes.

Ride Time just needs to know the addresses of the places you frequent: Home, School, Grocery. It then provides a personalized bus schedule where you can see what bus routes are available between two places and when they arrive next. Tap each route to see more information.

Ride Time makes it easy to switch between different locations and destinations, providing at a glance information to help you decide: “Should I leave now? Or do I have a minute for myself”.

Updating automatically every minute, you're always looking at the most current information. Ride Time even tells you when it's time to hurry!

Application that makes it possible to explore U.S. government budgets and trace expenditure items and the recipients of each contract in governmental departments. is a new US governmental website designed in accordance to the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act of 2006 (Transparency Act): it is a single searchable website, accessible by the public for free that includes for each Federal award:

1. the name of the entity receiving the award;
2. the amount of the award;
3. information on the award including transaction type, funding agency, etc;
4. the location of the entity receiving the award;
5. a unique identifier of the entity receiving the award.

The data is largely gathered from the Federal Procurement Data System, which contains information about federal contracts, and the Federal Assistance Award Data System, which contains information about federal financial assistance such as grants, loans, insurance, and direct subsidies like Social Security. The underlying technology for was developed by OMB Watch with the support of The Sunlight Foundation and is used on OMB Watch's website located at

Human Development

Interactive visualization that makes it possible to explore indicators of development in every nation and follow their performance over time.

The objective of the online visualization project Human's Development is to make important data, like the statistics about the different aspects of human development, readable for everyone. The intention was to develop an interactive and dynamic information-graphic which uncovers a global grievance causing the mismatch of upper-, middle-, and lower-classes, and raises the user's awareness for this issue.

Every year the UNPD (United Nations Development Programme) releases reports consisting of statistical information on different aspects of human development. The so-called "Human Development Reports" mainly focus on 3 dimensions which describe the makings of a successful human development: a long and healthy life, knowledge and a decent standard of living. Each dimension is expressed by an index between 0 and 1, and combines applicable and concrete facts for each country, which is here visualized.

The project aims that lay people should be able to absorb, process and understand the data so that they are willing to take action on projects offered by GlobalLiving. The project was designed and developed by Roland Loesslein, also the person behind the meteorological data visualization project Synoptic.


Submission of databases

Public databases of institutions or research groups interested in sharing them and making them more available to citizens can be sent to visualizar[at] or a link to those databases can be posted in the comments below, which are part of the announcement of Visualizar 09: Public Data, Data in Public.

The databases submitted will be included in a base that could serve as material for data visualization projects to be carried out during the interdisciplinary and collaborative production workshop held from 12 to 27 November 2009.

See submitted databases


With the support of the Spanish Foundation for Science and Technology - Ministry of Science and Innovation (FECYT - Ministerio de Ciencia e Innovación)


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