Democracy's Data

In Democracy’s Data, Dan Bouk uses the 1940 U.S. Census as a case study for reading into the “depths” of data. These depths include the data’s designers: those who decide what information to collect, what not to collect, and from whom to collect. The depths include the process through which a data set is produced: the mechanisms — people, paper forms, digital interfaces — by which data is inputted and, potentially, the unseen pressures imposed upon the dataset by political and social forces. The depths of data, moreover, include the choice of how to present the data and how those presentations are manipulated, utilized, and challenged. And the depths are rife with “silences,” important gaps in the data elided — maybe intentionally, maybe not — in its presentation. But above all, the depths of data, at every layer, are filled with hidden stories, waiting patiently to be read.

Within this framework, Bouk unpacks the 1940 U.S. Census, piece by piece

All in all, Democracy’s Data was an engaging crash course in how to critically read data, and I’d highly recommend it for anyone who collects, analyzes, or operates on data.