Sharenting – Raising a footprint: our social media compulsions as parents

Blog post by Jessica Maliphant, Child Emotional Well-Being Consultant and Sarah Martindale, Horizon Research Fellow

Sharenting pic

© J. Maliphant, 2014

It’s summer and Facebook news feeds are awash with idyllic, sun-drenched snapshots of family life. Bringing together our interests in the lifelong digital footprint and child development, we want to reflect on how we, and others, represent ourselves online through images of our families. As parents we post photos (we’ve used an example to illustrate) and occasional comments relating to our young children, and share these with each other as part of extended social networks, but should we give more thought to what is appropriate and what is not in this space? This was a question asked last year in a Guardian article about the effect of ‘sharenting’ on children as they grow up. We are more interested here in why parents use social media and the effects these practices have on them: the cultural nuances at play in creating and consuming social media portraits of family life; and how these can be better supported.

Whilst we are all familiar with the (derogatory) stereotype of a ‘Soccer Mom’ living through her children, how many of us are actually embroiled in virtual lives played out through our children digitally? A recent Windows phone advert (to use marketing as a bellwether of socio-cultural trends) played off parents’ desperate quests to get the perfect record of their kids’ achievements. In the context of people’s social media news feeds the seemingly voracious appetite for sharing photos of offspring can be dispiritingly obvious and intrusive. It’s worth noting that the Google Chrome browser extension rather, which replaces undesirable content on the user’s Facebook and Twitter feeds with something they’d rather see, started out life as Of course, expressions of parental pride and enthusiasm are not a product of the Internet but, as Emma Beddington concludes in the Guardian article, ‘it has just made the phenomenon horribly ubiquitous’.

The constant uploading of positive imagery – as advocated by wellbeing ‘challenge’100happydays and app Blipfoto – while obviously a personally uplifting exercise, can paint a rose-tinted picture of family life that represents a very partial view of reality. Offering a counterpoint are bloggers who deliberately chronicle the messy and chaotic aspects of parenthood. Films made by combining a second of footage from each day, such as this one made by Danny Pier to document his wife’s pregnancy, seem to occupy a position somewhere in between: many of the shots are mundane but, taken together, the film aims to depict their lived experience as uplifting and joyful, to amount to more than a series of recorded moments. Recounting the stories of our lives is a tantalising and compulsive pursuit, and it is easy to forget that such narratives can create a digital footprint for children before they have even mastered the art of leaving an actual footprint.

A recent project on the subject of ‘digital birth’ by Horizon CDT student George Filip highlighted some very interesting online practices that start even before the physical birth of a child, during pregnancy. At the extreme, as reported by the bluntly named blog STFU Parents, expectant mothers assume the identity of their unborn child: using a sonogram image as a profile picture and posting in character; even setting up a‘bwog’ for the foetus where visitors can ‘guess when I will be born and win a pwize from my Daddy’. Such performances of the ‘puppeteering mother’ represent more than cutesiness, reflecting the neoliberal imperative on mothers to subordinate their own needs to those of their child as a form of ‘being-for-intimate-others’ [i]. As mothers we are therefore able to accrue self-worth through a projected other, but in doing so we also construct an identity for our children. And as there isn’t yet a generation that can express how it feels to grow up in such a world it is difficult to assess the wider implications of doing so.

It is paradoxical, but the wider implications of sharing information among a social network are often occluded. Because none of us expect our innocuous holiday snaps to ‘go viral’ it’s easy to forget that in posting them to Facebook we are nevertheless creating ‘spreadable media’ [ii]. The content we share is a resource our friends can use and circulate, but this seems difficult for us to conceptualise. One teenage research participant thoughtfully reflected on this point recently as part of the research project Charting the Digital Lifespan: ‘with social networking it’s you and your computer and the people who are replying aren’t really there in the back of your head’. The mediating screen alters our sense of interactional etiquette and allows us to take ownership and advantage of our children’s identities in new ways. In another project focus group one mother commented on the sheer amount of information we share about our children, pointing out ‘you wouldn’t go up and like do that to another person in person because they’d just look at you strangely saying: do I care?’

So what fuels this insatiable need as a parent to ‘share’ our family experiences? Perhaps the old African proverb ‘It takes a village to raise a child’ can help us to understand our motives. In a world where people often need to travel for work, may live abroad and can be far removed from more traditional figures of support such as the extended family, social media can become a digital ‘village’ offering a replacement support structure. At the end of a very long summer school term children and their parents have been at breaking point and close to nervous exhaustion. Under these circumstances we’ve experienced the reassurance of knowing that other parents in our social networks care and understand when we feel isolated and at our wits end. Indeed, research has found that new parents who post pictures of their child and receive responses report greater satisfaction with parenthood and, although among mothers more frequent visits to Facebook are associated with higher levels of stress, it may be that mothers experiencing stress turn to Facebook for support and information [iii]. That view fits with research indicating that social networking can be a useful source of new information for mothers with preschool-aged children in particular [iv].

So why, if we turn to social networks for help with the difficult business of parenting, do the representations of families we encounter in these digital domains so often come across as competitive and/or intimidating? Given that social networks often include our childhood friends, it sometimes feels as though we’re reliving playground anxieties and rivalries through the next generation. Ultimately, ‘social network participants enter into online social spaces with the assumption that the information posted there is available to a broad and ill-defined audience with no clear boundaries’ [v]. Precisely because it is so difficult to conceptualise who is on the other side of the screen when we post we feel obliged to portray ourselves in a good light, even when entering into serious exchanges. This tension between motivation for sharing and concern for self-representation extends beyond parents’ use of social media: the no makeup selfie trend received criticism as both narcissistic and demeaning, however well intentioned. One blogger eloquently describes the positive slant we place on our online profiles when she writes, ‘So accustomed are we to the FaceTwit-Linked fantasy that so often passes for life now that we even start believing our own hype.’ But for parents it is not just the self but the offspring that can become the vehicle for ‘likeability’ and social affirmation.

In carefully curating digital images of our family lives it is almost as if we are pre-empting the ‘rosy view’ hypothesis – that we remember more positive events because negative aspects of the events recede or are re-evaluated – by deliberately excluding negative aspects from these representations in the first place. Rather than always selecting the ‘best’ pictures, however, we wonder whether we might also benefit from sharing photos taken at the same time everyday, no matter what. This could bring greater emotional variation to journaling activities such as #100happydays, enabling users to analyse negative feelings as well as savour positive ones. Going further, the Echo app (available for iOS and Android) encourages not just the recording, but also later reflection on digital media over time, in order to identify patterns of behaviour and how these could be improved [vi]. Of course, using an app on a personal device to reflect on one’s day-to-day life is a very different prospect to doing so on social networking sites, for the reasons already mentioned. And yet, imagine the possibilities for working through issues over an extended period, putting our experiences in perspective and ‘counting our blessings’, with other people (known and unknown to us), seeking to establish more meaningful connections of the sort that are maybe more common in offline life.

While it seems unlikely that any of us will be rushing to share all aspects of our less-than-perfect realities on Facebook anytime soon, it’s surely worth giving some serious thought to how we could change our current priorities. For instance, we can all become bogged down in the day-to-day managing of life and yet wish for time and opportunity to reflect on the wider world. What about a charity initiative that utilises social media to invite engagement with someone else’s situation and perspective on the world? It could be called ‘7 days of Reflection’. Each day a charity (perhaps Unicef, Oxfam or Red Cross) could highlight a current appeal as seen through the eyes of someone directly impacted in a post to your profile. There could be a voluntary donation button. Individuals could also nominate each other to take part. In this sort of way we could try to widen our perception and use social media not as a relentless vehicle for self-promotion but as a medium for positive personal and societal change.

[i] Johnson, Sophia Alice. “‘Maternal Devices’: Social Media and the Self-Management of Pregnancy, Mothering and Child Health.” Societies 4.2 (2014): 330-350.

[ii] Jenkins, Henry, Sam Ford, and Joshua Green. Spreadable media: Creating value and meaning in a networked culture. NYU Press, 2013.

[iii] Bartholomew, Mitchell K., et al. “New parents’ Facebook use at the transition to parenthood.” Family relations 61.3 (2012): 455-469.

[iv] Jang, Juyoung, and Jodi Dworkin. “Does social network site use matter for mothers? Implications for bonding and bridging capital.” Computers in Human Behavior 35 (2014): 489-495.

[v] Burkell, Jacquelyn et al. “Facebook: Public Space, or Private Space?” Information, Communication & Society 17.8 (2014): 974-985.

[vi] Isaacs, Ellen, et al. “Echoes from the past: how technology mediated reflection improves well-being.” Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems. ACM, 2013. 1071-1080.

Putting Crowdsourcing In Action

Blog Post By Mark Illife

Mark Illife image

Crowdsourcing is increasing in popularity as a form of distributed problem solving enabled by digital technologies. “The crowd” is invited to contribute towards projects, this contribution potentially being in the form of knowledge or design skills. On June the 3rd this year an interdisciplinary workshop investigating crowdsourcing and citizen science convened. It brought together experts and practitioners from many disciplines that apply a crowdsourcing approach, presenting outputs and how crowdsourcing aids projects from GalaxyZoo (an interactive project for volunteer classification of galaxies), Artmaps (an application for crowdsourcing information on Tate digital artworks) and Taarifa (a platform and community supporting the crowdsourcing of public service issues in the developing and developed world).

My personal presentation was on Taarifa, a project I started in 2011 to support community based public service delivery. Since then I’ve worked in collaboration with the World Bank in Uganda to support the Education and Local Government Ministries with reporting across the country; what started as a pilot was rolled out quickly to cover 111 districts, over a year of an at-scale pilot 14,000 reports were received and acted upon. This resulted into wider research into the wider use of public participatory service delivery in developing countries (FOSS4G Taarifa paper). The uniqueness of Taarifa is that it has been developed and maintained by wholly volunteer contributors, creating free and open source software. The contributors to Taarifa are as diverse as the problems which Taarifa addresses, ranging from PhD Candidates like myself to Physicists, Bankers and Community Organisers. Consequently, Taarifa doesn’t just look after a platform of software; it acts as a forum to share knowledge, experimentations and innovation.

Taarifa was conceived at the London Water Hackathon, as an innovation around water access and quality in Tanzania. Access to water in Tanzania currently covers less than 50% of the country’s population and with 38% of the water infrastructure, like taps, are graded as non-functional. Currently the Ministry of Water has a WPMS (Water Point Mapping System) developed after a countrywide survey. However, the system has is no functionality to update the status of the water point or view a history of service problems. This is combined with poor performance of repairs nationally if water points are repaired; citizens are disenfranchised with current methods of reporting water faults, if they can report at all. The ecosystem around supporting the repair of water points is non-existent; consequently millions of Tanzanians have no access to publicly delivered water.

It is important to stress that there isn’t ‘one’ solution to the problem of water access nor is there ‘one’ platform or software to ‘fix’ the problem. There is no one discipline that can resolve the issue of water access, there has to be a multidisciplinary approach, to a multidisciplinary problem. Cartography, Economics, Engineering, not one discipline can wholly resolve the issue of water access, nor it is an issue which can be researched and resolved through the lens of one discipline. The societal side of technology needs to not be just taken into account, but integrated into the core of the design with the people who face the issue and who will use the technology to resolve it. It is imperialistic and deterministic to assume that technology can just ‘fix’ the kind of complex issue of water access, especially as the technology is, in effect, imposed broadly by outsiders to the community in which it is intended to take root. Hence, an understanding of the community is needed; who the users are, how water access is dealt with currently and the general state of affairs. From this we have created two streams of Taarifa, one that is currently implemented and one that is currently being designed, incorporating lessons learned from initial deployments.

The first iteration of Taarifa’s design story and user action assumed that mobile connectivity wasn’t an issues and that there was an active organisation, be it government or an NGO wanting to resolve water access issues, another predicate was that the water infrastructure was adequately mapped. This led to the following reporting process for a water issue; When a report is made, for example from a Community Water Officer or a concerned citizen, it goes into the Taarifa workflow, which identifies the specific water point from the database. The reporter is then notified, thanked that they have made a report and given an estimation, based on prior time taken to repair broken water points in that district on how long it will take. An engineer is informed what is wrong with the water source. Once an engineer has been selected, a verifier can verify that repair has been completed satisfactorily. Importantly, at each stage the initial reporter is informed about the progress of the repair. This was the version trialled in Uganda.

Subsequently, learning from how Taarifa was deployed and used, the design is now intended to incorporate offline capability and ‘marketplace’ functionality. The offline capability due experiences in Uganda that connectivity wasn’t universal (this was not a surprise, however, improvements to the paradigm should be incremental) the marketplace due to the capacity of local government and organisations. If a district has no capacity to repair a broken water point, the cost could be estimated by a number of engineers receiving information about the problem and they bid using their phones. A micropayment is taken to support the system, providing a surplus, potentially reinvested into creating new capacity. Micropayments are ubiquitous in the developing world, effectively replacing a formal banking infrastructure, hence are familiar to the communities who will use this method. Consequently this should hopefully be viewed as an extension of what already exists, not something completely new.

What does all this mean within the context of the Crowdsourcing in Action workshop? Broadly it allows us, as academic researchers to typify crowdsourcing and understand more. Taarifa acts as a community crowdsourcing code and by extension curating community reporting issues in developing countries. Artmaps develops applications for use on smart phones that will allow people to relate artworks to the places, sites and environments they encounter in daily life. GalaxyZoo leverages the many eyes of the crowd to process space imagery data. Thematically, all the projects presented utilised volunteers to provide information, process it and return it to the user and other interested actors.

After the initial presentations we formed groups, of other experts and practitioners to build a common model of what crowdsourcing means to their projects and work. Then coalescing at periods to feedback practice and information learned from other participants. In doing so, we learn from successes and failures of others, understanding common themes for collaboration.

In identifying these common themes, it hopefully sets an agenda to focus on specific factors and communities under the crowdsourcing agenda. Jeremy Morley and I are planning a future “How to Hackathon” event building “Crowdsourcing in Action”. Hackathons allow volunteers (generally) to co-create ‘hacks’ to problems. In its truest sense you accelerate innovation by combining a random mix of people and skills, providing a set of previously unsolved problems, then observing what happens. As was identified in the Crowdsouring In Action, we can observe the states before crowdsourcing; we can help provide a process for participants; we can observe and process the result. However, an understanding of how participants use the tools to conduct crowdsourcing is scant. By now focusing on hackathons, we hope to discover more on how the design and development of crowdsourcing works

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Controversy around Ethics of Facebook’s Study is Missing the Real Issue

Blog post by Dr Murray Goulden – Horizon Research Fellow


Facebook came in for considerable criticism recently when they revealed that, over a one week period in 2012, they conducted a study on 689,000 users. By filtering the status updates that appeared on individuals’ new feeds, the study set out to measure “emotional contagion”, a rather hyperbolic term for peer effects on the emotional state of individuals. The study concludes that Facebook users more exposed to positive updates from contacts in turn posted more positive updates, and less negatives ones, themselves. The result for those exposed to more negative updates was the opposite.

Some of the claims made by the study are open to challenge, but here I’m interested in the response to it. I’ll go on to argue that we should actually be grateful to Facebook for this study.

Criticism revolved around two interrelated themes: manipulation and consent. Of the first, Labour MP Jim Sheridan, member of the Commons media select committee, declared that “people are being thought-controlled”, and several news stories declared it “creepy”. The second response, as reported here, was led by academics highlighting clear differences between the ethical requirements they are required to meet when conducting research, and those the Facebook study adopted.

Without informed consent, it’s difficult not to see an attempt at mass emotional manipulation as creepy, so it is highly problematic that the study’s claim for consent is so weak. It states “Facebook’s Data Use Policy, to which all users agree prior to creating an account on Facebook, [constitutes] informed consent for this research”. This is simply nonsense. Even if we pretend every user actually read the Data Use Policy rather than just clicked past it (and how many of us ever read the Terms and Conditions?), this should have happened shortly before the study – rather than potentially as long ago as 2005 when Facebook first launched. Further stretching the definition of “informed” is the fact that the key sentence in the Policy comes at the bottom of a long list of things Facebook “may” use your data for. This solitary sentence – “internal operations, including troubleshooting, data analysis, testing, research and service improvement” – embedded in a 9,091 word document, may legally constitute consent, but from an ethical standpoint it certainly isn’t informed.

It is perhaps surprising, having said all this, that I think Facebook should be congratulated on this study. What they have managed to do is draw back the curtain on the increasingly huge impact that tech companies’ algorithms have on our lives. The surprising, and rather worrying thing, is that Facebook has done this inadvertently, whilst reporting on a study of social contagion. The really important ‘contagion’ revealed by this work is that of invisible filters and rankings in structuring our access to information online. The reason why this is worrying is that not seeing this controversy coming suggests Facebook are as blind to the social consequences of these processes as most of the public have been.

Despite the accusations of “creepy” manipulation, the only thing that is unique about what Facebook did in this experiment is that in reporting it they publically admitted that the processing they carried out was not done in the “interests” (as defined by Facebook) of the individuals involved. There are two issues here. The first concerns what is in the interests of the individual. For Facebook, and no doubt other tech companies relying on advertising income base on page views, this is defined as what people like (or ‘Like’ in Facebook’s case). In a healthy, pluralist society we shouldn’t only be exposed to things we like. Being a citizen in a democracy is a job for grown-ups, and important information is not always as immediately palatable as videos of cats on skateboards are. And what of serendipity, of finding interesting content from a novel source? Filters strip this away, in a manner which is entirely purposeful and almost always invisible.

The purpose behind these filters leads us to the second issue. Alongside their interest in keeping users satisfied, tech companies have, of course, their own commercial interests which at times may conflict with those of the user. Google, in a case that has been rumbling on since 2010, is facing sanction from the European Commission (EC) for altering the all-important ranking of websites so its own businesses appear at the top of searches. The ability to present information in a manner which favours the company at the expense of others – whether businesses or individuals – is available to any tech company which provides content to users.

As the tech sector matures, we may increasingly also see political interests shaping their actions. The ongoing ‘net neutrality’ battle in the US has brought to light that one of the biggest potential beneficiaries of abandoning neutrality – the Internet Service Provider Comcast – spent more on lobbying last year ($18m) than any other company except the arms manufacturer Northrop Grumman. In the Facebook controversy some critics have already raised the prospect of such filters being used to alter users’ emotional states during an election, in order to affect the outcome. Even the small effects described in the study could have huge impact given Facebook’s reach, as the study itself acknowledges: “an effect size of d = 0.001 at Facebook’s scale is not negligible: In early 2013, this would have corresponded to hundreds of thousands of emotion expressions in status updates per day.”

There was actually no need, in this case, to use such a poor approximation of informed consent. We shouldn’t though let that complaint obscure the bigger story here. It may have been by accident, but Facebook have, I hope, triggered a vital public debate about the role of algorithms in shaping our online lives.

As societies, we are currently a long way behind the curve in dealing with the possibilities for information manipulation that the internet offers. Of course information manipulation is as old as information itself, but users of a news website know that they are receiving a curated selection of information. We do not yet have such expectations about Google searches or the updates of our friends that Facebook makes available to us. We must then begin to think about how we can ensure such powers are not abused, and not rely just on one-off cases such as Google’s battle with the EC. The challenge of balancing public interest and commercial secrecy promises to result in a long battle, so it’s one that needs to begin now.

In my view, Facebook’s mistake was not in conducting such work, but in reporting it as a study of human behaviour, rather than of tech companies’ influence over us. Ethics are not set in stone, and must always be balanced with what is in the public interest. If there is sufficient benefit for society as a whole, it may be considered justifiable to transgress some individuals’ rights (as is the case, for example, when the news media reports on a politician committing adultery). As such, it could be that argued that Facebook’s study was actually ethical. For this to be the case though, Facebook would need to show an understanding of what the public interest actually is in this case.

The relationship, stupid! Adapting the service relationship for today’s citizens

Authored by Jesse Blum – Research Fellow

There has been recent emphasis on complaint handling in public affairs, but the issue tracking model of open software might be a better paradigm for services delivered in the 21st century digital economy. Whilst similar, the fundamental difference between complaint handling and issue tracking relates to the relationship model between service delivery (be it for government, not-for-profit, or private enterprise) and service user. Whereas the former limits the participation of the user to either consumption or protest, the latter views users as co-creators and coordinates collective service improvement. This generation has come to rely on the Web as a utility and its lessons of creativity and collaboration are being studied in Horizon’s Sayit.Today project, to help integrate crowd wisdom into the significant challenges facing our services.

According to the first episode in Channel 4’s recent program The Complainers, complaints to British corporations have increased by 100% in a year, arising to 38 million being logged in 2013. As Benji Wilson points out though, the show did not seem to investigate this rise, and refused to acknowledge the importance of resolving actual complaints (rather than the generic moans and insults that the show concentrated upon). Wilson suspects that the rise is owing to the Internet and social media (especially Twitter), and I tend to agree. However, whereas Wilson thinks it’s simply because “now that you can mouth off in public and in an instant, you’re much more likely to do so”, I think it is more to do with the ways that these and other digital media ongoingly encourage an increased sense of real time participation in the services affecting our lives, from transport, to health, to general governance.

Dr smaller

Much of this recent emphasis on complaints in the UK has origins with the failure of care at Mid Staffordshire Hospital. Without question, those who suffered at the hospital are entitled to justice and reconciliation, which is what a proper universal complaint system should have as its core value. This is one of the central precepts argued for in the Public Administration Select Committee (PASC) report “More Complaints Please!“. In addition the report discusses that the complaint systems for government and healthcare services should:  i. have effective and clear process (including good communication with people), ii. be seen as a “positive indicator of user engagement and they should be valued as a source of information about the quality of the service”, and iii. use the reported information to drive improvements, plans and strategies. The problem is that those final two values are significantly overshadowed by the need for justice and reconciliation, especially when the complainants are reporting incidents that have caused real harm to their lives. Furthermore, the report does not distinguish between the levels of issues that people report, from nice to have improvements to failures and critical events.

In addition to the report’s call for the creation of a single point of contact for citizens to make complaints (of the more serious types), we believe there should also be a single point of contact for citizens to raise issues — i.e. to report bugs and put in feature requests in the various services they use, and to engage with service providers in the manner that they have become accustomed from the Internet. At Horizon, under the auspices of the Sayit.Today project, we are working towards developing this universal service issue tracker. To begin with we are concentrating on healthcare delivery within hospitals, as this use case provides the toughest of challenges — life and death situations, ongoing pressure to balance privacy and transparency, and where procedural excellence must be at its highest. We are working closely with our partners in the Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust to deliver state of the art issue tracking solutions that make it fast to report issues, that issues get reported in succinct format to those with the power and responsibility to make the requested changes, and that the communication channels between staff, management, and the public are suitably open and transparent.

Complaints to services are on the rise, but so too is the public’s interest and expectation that we can participate in the affairs that govern our lives. Although the goal of a unified and improved complaint system for government and healthcare is to be welcomed, let’s first get the issue tracking in place.

Please contact with enquiries related to this post or the Sayit.Today project.

Open Data Round Up: 24/02/14

Welcome back to my round-up of the most interesting recent stories from the world of open data:

  • The Open Data Institute has announced further expansion of it’s international network, signing up five more organisations to act as “ODI Nodes”. The new Nodes will be located in Osaka, Seoul, Sheffield, Philadelphia and Hawaii and will bring together companies, universities, and NGOs that support open data projects and communities.
  • Pivigo Academy have developed an “Data Science Summer School“, due to start in August 2014, which is the first of it’s kind in the UK. The five week course is aimed training PhD students and researchers in the commercial tools and techniques needed to be hired into data science roles and will be sponsored by KPMG.
  • TechCityUK recently organised Flood Hack, a forum for developers to work on apps and systems which could support members of the public affected by the recent bad weather in the UK and by future extreme weather events. 18 different apps were developed during the event, two of which received development funding from the Nominet Trust to take their apps further – FludBud, which finds users who are near to flood affected areas and tweets them information about potential volunteers near them, and Flood Feeder, which creates a visualization of an aggregated feed of flood & related data.
  • The programme which proposes to allow sharing of NHS patient data in England has been postponed by six months in response to concerns raised by patients and doctors. The postponement will allow NHS England more time to address concerns around privacy as well as to get a greater understanding of the potential risks and benefits. Dr Geraint Lewis, the Chief Data Officer for NHS England, has written a detailed post on the safeguards that will be put in place as part of the programme to protect patient privacy.

Is there anything else you’d like to see covered in these posts? Let me know in the comments or get in touch via Horizon’s social media channels!


Open Data Round Up: 31/01/14

A belated Happy New Year from everyone at Horizon! Here’s a round up of some of the most interesting open data stories from January 2014:

  • Nesta’s recent report “Which Doctors Take Up Promising Ideas: Insights from Open Data” uses open data to analyse early adoption of promising new ideas across primary health care in England. Nesta argue that open data can help people understand differences in service as well as inform patient and practitioner priorities and choices.


  • Huawei have announced that they are to collaborate with Imperial College London on the creation of a Data Science Innovation Laboratory. The Lab will bring together experts from across Imperial’s faculties and Huawei researchers to harness data science research and develop new applications in fields such as smart cities, energy and healthcare.


  • The World Bank has launched a new open data tool which provides comparative data on education around the world. The Systems Approach for Better Education Results (SABER) web tool helps countries collect and analyse information on their education policies, benchmark themselves against other countries, and prioritize areas for reform.


  • Paul Maltby, Director of Open Data and Government Innovation at the Cabinet Office has written a post on the ways in which open data is being used in the UK government for the Civil Service Quarterly blog. The post outlines how open data will help reform public services, as well as improve accountability and generate economic growth.

Finally, Open Data Day 2014 takes place on the 22nd February – a map and more information on the events taking place can be found on the International Open Data Day website.


Open Data Round Up: 19/12/13

Hello and welcome to the final open data round up of 2013!


  • The Ordnance Survey have launched a new Geovation challenge focused on encouraging healthy lifestyles in the UK. The Geovation challenges look at ways in which open data can be used to tackle social problems. OS have also made materials from their latest round of open data masterclasses available online.






Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from Horizon!

Open Data Round Up: 28/11/13

The biggest news this week here at Horizon has been the announcement of funding for a new Horizon Centre for Doctoral Training! The new CDT will focus on the theme of “My Life in Data” and will train a community of 80 future leaders to develop the technologies and applications of our ‘digital identities’ in a way that ensures their transparent use across the economy and wider society. The Centre brings together leading figures from computing and engineering as well as the social sciences, business and humanities, and is co-funded by over twenty industry, third sector and international partners.


  • Nominet Trust have published a state-of-the-art review looking at Big Data and Social Organisations. The review says that if social organisations can realise the potential of Big Data then new practices and interventions that offer radically different approaches to addressing some of the most persistent social challenges can be created.


  • The BBC signed Memorandums of Understanding supporting free and open internet technologies with The Open Data Institute, The Open Knowledge Foundation, The Mozilla Foundation and The Europeana Foundation. These agreements will enable closer collaboration between the BBC and each of the four organisations on a range of mutual interests, including the release of structured open data and the use of open standards in web development.



  • Horizon partners Nottingham City Council have launched a new version of Open Data Nottingham which is the portal for all of Nottingham City’s open data. The site contains over 80 data sets, all released under an Open Government Licence, and new content is added regularly but data users are invited to get in touch if a data set they wish to access is unavailable.

That’s all for this week! However if you are interested in the new Horizon Centre for Doctoral Training or in Open Data Nottingham please get in touch via the comments or on Twitter!



Open Data Round Up: 18/11/13

This week’s open data post focuses on how you can get involved with open data – including undertaking data exploration, using applications powered by personal data, and hearing about the impact open data can have on the future of key industries.


  • The Open Data Research Network, in collaboration with the Web Foundation and the Open Data Institute, recently published the Open Data Barometer 2013 Annual Report. The Open Data Barometer takes a multidimensional look at the spread of Open Government Data policy and practice across the world. It has also been visualised by the Open Data Institute.


  • The midata Innovation Lab has launched five new prototype applications which allow people to use their personal data in innovative new ways. The applications which address the issues of energy support for vulnerable people, personal finance management, healthcare and lifestyle changes, caring for vulnerable people, and moving home are available via the midata Innovation Lab website.


  • The Open Data Institute are hosting their inaugural research afternoon entitled  “Show me the future of… Food and Open Data” on the 28th November 2013.  The event will feature several leading researchers discussing the future of food and how open data has the potential to transform the sector



If you’re interested in learning more about how to use open data why not attend one of Ordnance Survey’s free Open Data Masterclasses – limited places are still available for the 2013 Masterclass series.


Open Data Round Up: 07/11/13

Lots of the Horizon team have been at this week’s Digital Economy All Hands event which took place at the incredible MediaCityUK in Salford. The theme was “Open Digital” so it was unsurprising to hear plenty about open data – including a fascinating final keynote speech from Dame Wendy Hall entitled “Lets Be Open About This” which looked at the importance of openness in the development of the world wide web and the potential of open data for the future. Dame Wendy also talked about the “Age of Data” and the importance of linked open data and big data.

Some other interesting developments in the open data arena this week have included:

  • The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills in partnership with the Information Economy Council have published their data capability strategy for the UK entitled “Seizing the data opportunity”. Neil Crockett of the Connected Digital Economy Catapult has welcomed the strategy as a “strong and important milestone” for the UK data community


  • The Open Data Institute have published their Annual Review looking back on their first year of operation following The ODI Annual Summit last week . Highlights include the recruitment of 40 members – including Horizon – as well as support for a dozen start-ups and the establishment of a global network. Not bad for a years work!


  •  The Connected Digital Economy Catapult have announced a number of new projects including the Greater Manchester Data Synchronisation Project – a partnership with FutureEverything and the Future Cities Catapult that will develop a programme of work to overcome a number of challenges around the areas of capacity, support and dissemination in the coordinated release of city datasets.


  •  The Open Government Partnership conference took place in London on the 31st October and 1st November. If, like me, you didn’t manage to attend the conference the Cabinet Office have pulled together a handy summary of key news and announcements.


That’s it for this week but don’t forget to follow Horizon on Twitter for more regular updates and news about all aspects of the Digital Economy!


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