For whatever reason, my antennae are constantly on the alert for clever ideas that have the potential to grow into something more profound, particularly those that uncomfortably span more than one existing discipline so that nobody starts out as an ‘expert’. A good example is the combination of a growing volume of ‘open data’ with the increasing availability of simple and easy-to-use data analysis tools, spawning the new field of ‘anyone can do it’ data journalism.
Most people go a bit cold when ‘data’ and ‘analyse’ appear in the same sentence. It all sounds a bit too close to maths. But facts are extraordinarily powerful things. They can be used for both good and bad and they can be mishandled and misrepresented; one only has to look at the furore surrounding Wikileaks to understand that. It is sadly somewhat inevitable that with most of us living busy lives, few of us have the time to check whether the ‘facts’ being presented by politicians and public figures are actually true.
Simon Rogers has written probably the best introduction to data journalism. In his eyes, just as punk encouraged kids without musical training to pick up an instrument, so data journalism allows all of us to channel Woodward & Bernstein.