Cybernetics refers to the relationship between humans, machines, and decision making. When it comes to modern applications for data science and AI, our capacity for knowledge and insight is fundamentally limited—not by our tech but by fragmented collaboration and a dominant mindset that leads to practical information silos.
Graduate students and academic research groups are often driving agents in the interpretation and analytic use of centralized data lakes, yet the target of this insight can be severed from the source. Even in fields where experts have a high level of data literacy, the work of data scientists doesn’t always align with the criteria for action or meaningful insight to create change, and when it does, often this work is not easily scalable. This is especially true for the analytical frameworks that are used to make decisions in the civic and governmental space, where complex information challenges persist city to city, and solutions developed in one region aren’t necessarily reproducible without heavy proprietary custodianship. This is partially to do with a reflexive feeling that data is “precious” and should be cloistered, and this trigger is compounded by the competitive nature of institutions and private companies.
To address this, Hack Oregon built a custom open source framework to harnesses cloud technologies, virtualization strategies, and existing data science notebooks and synchronized workspaces for multiuser, data-driven collaboration on the web. Hack Oregon believes a functional communication network sharing standards, data sources, and publishing modules would not only lead to faster work, more actionable outcomes, and accessibility to the field of data science but also open the door to exponentially accelerate the pace of innovation in the industry today.
Catherine Nikolovski, Michael Lange, and Jaron Heard offer an overview of Hack Oregon’s CIVIC, a new approach to interactive computing inspired by complex information challenges in the civic space, which packages real-world data into universal standards and provides integration tools and powerful cloud computing to anyone with an internet connection. The CIVIC platform launched publicly in June running on Oregon data, with 10 early-adopter cities nationwide following.
Catherine Nikolovski is the founder and executive director of Hack Oregon.
Michael Lange is CTO of the CIVIC Software Foundation. A career software engineer, Michael has worked on tools ranging from TV analytics to cloud-based cluster orchestration.
Jaron Heard is data visualization lead at the CIVIC Software Foundation, where he is reimagining how to make information actionable through visual models and interdisciplinary collaboration.
He is both a practitioner and a thinker in the field of interactive data visualization. He has followed his curiosity from studies in statistics and work as an actuarial analyst, to art museums and libraries across the world, to leading the design and creation of a library of scalable data visualization components in React for CIVIC.
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