Archive for the ‘Data’ Category

Marx, use value, exchange value and social networks

October 13th, 2014 by Graham Attwell

I have to admit I am not a great fan of lectures on line. there seems far to little human interaction and the slick production of things like the TED talks has got both ‘samey’ and somewhat tedious. But I loved this lecture by David Harvey on Karl Marx delivered in Amsterdam with no slides and no notes! As the blurb says “David Harvey is a Distinguished Professor of Anthropology & Geography at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York (CUNY), and the author of numerous books. He has been teaching Karl Marx’s Capital for over 40 years.”

David Harvey does not shy away from the politics of Karl Marx. But his focus is on Marx’s writings and ideas as a tool for social science and analysis. For those of you without the time, interest or patience to listen to the whole video the particular bits I found interesting include his ideas around rational consumption (about 30 minutes in), the idea of accumulation by dispossession (some 38 minutes in), the idea of management of the ommons important (after about 47 minutes) and contradictions over the role of the state (towards the end of the lecture and before the discussion).

Harvey talks a lot about contradictions – the biggest being the contradiction between use value and exchange value. As Wikipedia explains: “In Marx’s critique of political economy, any product has a labor-value and a use-value, and if it is traded as a commodity in markets, it additionally has an exchange value, most often expressed as a money-price. Marx acknowledges that commodities being traded also have a general utility, implied by the fact that people want them, but he argues that this by itself tells us nothing about the specific character of the economy in which they are produced and sold.”

Much of David Harvey;s work has been in the area of urban development and housing and he explains how this contradiction applies there and its implications. But it may also be a useful explanation of understanding what is happening with social networks. Social networks have a use value for us all in allowing us to stay in touch with friends, develop personal learning networks, learn about new ideas or just letting off steam to anyone who will listen. OK – the exchange value is not expressed as a money price. But most people now realise that social networking applications are seldom free. Instead of paying money we give our data away for them to use. And in turn they use this data to try to extract money from us through buying commodities. This is all fine as long as the use value exceeds the exchange value. But as social network providers try to monetise their products they are constantly upping the ante in terms of exchange value. In other words we are increasingly being required to sign over our data as well as our privacy in order to use their applications.

Alternatively social networks are trying to push ever more commodities at us. An article in the Gaurdian newspaper yesterday over Twitters attempts to build a business model noted: “Chief executive Dick Costolo has talked longingly about growing, and eventually making money from, the huge number of people who view tweets without signing up. This is fine on YouTube, where most of us watch the content without producing it and only sigh a little as we’re forced to watch ads when we do so. In contrast, sponsored tweets are a bit like being asked to pay for gossip from your colleague over the coffee machine.”

All this means more and more people are questioning whether the use value of Facebook and Twitter is worth the exchange value.

And such contradictions are hard to resolve!

Opening up data and research

September 19th, 2014 by Graham Attwell

Much of the focus of the open education movement has been on Open Educvational Resources and MOOCs. But just as important, in my humble opinion, is opening up research to a wider public. This is not only confined to opening up access to the results of research but allowing access to a wider audience than acandmicsx to raw research data. And there are a growing number of web sites that are doing this. One of the sites i am loving is the Understanding Society website based on the UK Households survey and run by designed and managed by a team of longitudinal survey experts at the Institute for Social and Economic Research (ISER), at the University of Essex.

Understanding Society, they say, “is a unique and valuable academic study that captures important information every year about the social and economic circumstances and attitudes of people living in 40,000 UK households.

It also collects additional health information from around 20,000 of the people who take part.

Information from the longitudinal survey is primarily used by academics, researchers and policy makers in their work, but the findings are of interest to a much wider group of people including those working in the third sector, health practitioners, business, the media and the general public.”

One study based on the survey and recently posted on the Understanding Society web site  looks at Gender differences in educational aspirations and attitudes land examined the ambitions and approaches to study of 11-15 year olds participating in the British Household Panel Survey.

The sudy says that “while girls have more positive aspirations and attitudes than boys, the impacts of gender on children’s attitudes and aspirations vary significantly with parental education level, parental attitudes to education, child’s age and the indirect cost of education.

Boys are more responsive than girls to positive parental characteristics, while educational attitudes and aspirations of boys deteriorate at a younger age than those of girls.

Girls also acknowleged the impact of the recession and increased youth unemployment by working harder. Boys however appear unresponsive to the business cycle. This might reflect misplaced confidence where they believe they will be able to find a job independently from the economic climate. Policies targeting boys with more information on the benefits from investing in education will increase their awareness about the consequences of an unfavourable youth labour market, which may improve their educational attitudes and aspirations and consequently their educational attainment.”

I’m not sure what is make of all this. But I wonder if there is any comparative data from other countries? No doubt it would be a chnallenge to norm such data, but it could greatly help in understanding why boys in the UK are underperforming. If you know of such data plese just add a comment or drop me an email.

The challenges of open data: emerging technology to support learner journeys

September 16th, 2014 by Graham Attwell

As promised, a post on our stand and presentation at Alt-C on the LMIforAll Labour Market Data project, sponsored by UKCES. Working together with the Institute for Employment Research at Warwick University and Raycom, we have developed a database and APi providing access to a range of data about a wide variety of different occupations in the UK including data about:

  • Pay
  • Gender
  • Numbers employed
  • Future employment projections
  • Occupational profiles
  • Skills and competences
  • Job vacancies
  • University destinations

The API is self documenting and is available free of charge to both for profit and not for profit organisatio0ns and developers. Working with Loud Source we have run a competition for Apps built on the API and together with Rewired State we have organised a series of Hack Days and Mod Days. We are currently redesigning the website to provide better access to the data and to the different applications that have been built to date.

One strange thing that took people visiting our stand some time to understand was that we were not selling anything (I think ours and Jisc were the only non commercial stands).  The second thing was that we were not trying to ‘sell’ them a shiny out of teh box project. To get added value from our database and API requires some thought and development effort on the part of organisations wanting to use the data. We provide the tools, they provide the effort to use them. But when people got that concept they were enthusiastic. And most interestingly they were coming up with completely new ideas for where the data might be valuable. As you can see in our presentation above, we have largely focused on the use of LMIforAll for careers planning. University and Further Education researchers and developers saw big potential using the API as a planning too for future courses and curriculum. Others saw it as a valuable resource for measuring employability, a big agenda point for many UK institutions. It was also suggested to us that the labour market data could be mashed together with data derived from learning analytics, providing possibly a more learner centred approach to analytics than has previously been deployed.

If you are interested in any of these ideas have a play on the LMIforAll web site. And feel free to get in touch if you have any questions.

 

 

CareerHack competition reeps rich harvest

March 31st, 2014 by Graham Attwell

First the official stuff (from the press release).

“Talented UK students have won three out of four prizes in a worldwide competition to create a new app to help people develop their career.

The CareerHack open data contest was launched in November last year by the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES), and asked developers around the globe to build an app based on the UK Commission’s “LMI for All” open data, which contains information on the UK labour market, including employment, skills and future job market predictions.

First prize winner for the competition was Tomasz Florczak from Logtomobile in Poland, who won £10,000 for his innovative Career Advisor app, while 16-year-old school student Harry Jones, from Bath, took home a £5,000 prize for his Job Happy entry.

 

The contest also had a special prize specifically for entrants aged 16-24 in Further Education. In this category 22-year-old IT apprentice Phillip Hardwick won the £5,000 prize for his entry, Career Path. And judges were so impressed with the quality of entrants from the category that they introduced an additional runner-up prize of £2,500, which went to a team effort from students at Barking and Dagenham College in London.

Competition judge Dr Deirdre Hughes OBE, Chair of National Careers Council and a Commissioner for UKCES, said:

“As judges we were all highly impressed at the outstanding contributions made by our winners, and of the talent and ability being displayed by the next generation of up-and-coming developers and programmers.

“The quality of the submissions was so high we felt the need to introduce an additional prize, but all those that entered should be extremely proud of their efforts.”

The judging panel was made up of technology experts from Google, Ubuntu and HP, alongside representatives from the UK Commission and John Lewis. Judges made their decision based on how innovative the entry was, how viable it was as a working app, the potential it had for making an impact on society and the overall quality of the packaged app.

CareerHack judge Matt Brocklehurst, Product Marketing Manager at Google UK said:

“At Google we’re well aware of the importance of making data open and encouraging young, creative talent. CareerHack was a fantastic example of this and we were very impressed by the high standard of entries from everyone who entered – the fact that three of the four winners are young people at the start of their careers is fantastic news.  We hope these prizes will enable them to get a head start down whichever career path they choose to follow.”

Fellow CareerHack judge Cristian Parrino, Vice President of Mobile and Online Services at Ubuntu, added:

“The CareerHack competition demonstrated how an set of open data can be used to cater to the needs of people at different stages of their career paths. It was wonderful to see the different flavours of high quality applications and services built on UKCES’s data.”

LMI for All has been developed by the UK Commission for Employment and Skills, working with a consortium led by the Institute for Employment Research at Warwick University and including Pontydysgu, RayCom and Rewired State.”

Pontydysgu’s bit in all this is managing the technical side. I have to say I was a bit sceptical of producing an APi and then opening it up and encouraging contributions through a competition, but having looked at the videos I am gobsmacked by the inventiveness of teh programmers who entered. We will be looking in more depth at what has been produced. We are also seeking feedback from all those who participated and planning more events later in the year. If you would like to know more (and particularly we would be interested in similar approaches to Open data for Labour Market Information in other countries) please contact me at graham10 [at] mac [dot] com.

Citing and valueing Open Data

July 2nd, 2013 by Graham Attwell

The academic world has. perhaps unsurprisingly, been somewhat slow to respond to the challenge of recognising different sources of knowledge. A little strangely, one important step in developing recognition of different forms of scholarly research and knowledge is the development and use of forms of citation.

Si in that regard it is encouraging to see the publication of “The Amsterdam Manifesto on Data Citation Principles.”

In the preface they state:

We wish to promote best practices in data citation to facilitate access to data sets and to enable attribution and reward for those who publish data. Through formal data citation, the contributions to science by those that share their data will be recognized and potentially rewarded. To that end, we propose that:

1. Data should be considered citable products of research.

2. Such data should be held in persistent public repositories.

3. If a publication is based on data not included with the article, those data should be cited in the publication.

4. A data citation in a publication should resemble a bibliographic citation and be located in the publication’s reference list.

5. Such a data citation should include a unique persistent identifier (a DataCite DOI recommended, or other persistent identifiers already in use within the community).

6. The identifier should resolve to a page that either provides direct access to the data or information concerning its accessibility. Ideally, that landing page should be machine-actionable to promote interoperability of the data.

7. If the data are available in different versions, the identifier should provide a method to access the previous or related versions.

8. Data citation should facilitate attribution of credit to all contributors

The Manifesto was created during the Beyond the PDF 2 Conference in Amsterdam in March 2013.

The original authors were Mercè Crosas, Todd Carpenter, David Shotton and Christine Borgman.

 

Big data, issues and policies

June 21st, 2013 by Graham Attwell

I’ve been working this week on a report on data. I am part of a small team and the bit they have asked me to do is the use of big data, and particularly geo-spatial data, for governments. I am surprised by how much use is already being made of data, although patterns seem very uneven. We did a quick brainstorm in the office of potential areas where data could impact on government services and came up with the following areas:

  • Transport

- infrastructure and maintenance

  • Council Services

- planning

- Markets/Commerce

- Licenses

  • Environmental Services

- Waste and Recycling

- Protection

- Climate

- Woodlands

- Power monitoring

- Real – time monitoring

  • Health Services
  • Planning
  • Employment
  • Education
  • Social Services
  • Tourism
  • Heritage Services
  • Recreational Services
  • Disaster response
  • Disease analysis
  • Location tracking
  • Risk management/ modelling
  • Crime prevention
  • Service Management
  • Target achievements
  • Predictive maintenance

There seems little doubt that using more data could allow national, regional and local governments both to design more effective, efficient and personalised services. However there remain considerable issues and barriers to this development. These include:

  • Lack of skills and knowledge in government staff. There are already predictions of skills shortages for data programmers and analysts. With the rapid expansion in the use of big data in the private sector, the relatively lower levels of local government remuneration may make it difficult to recruit staff with the necessary knowledge and skills.
  • Pressure on public sector budgets. Although there are considerable potential cost savings through the use of big data in planning and providing services, this may require considerable up front investment in research and development. With the present pressure on public sector budgets there is a challenge in securing sufficient resources in this area. Lack of time to develop new systems and services
  • Lock-in to proprietary systems. Although many of the applications being developed are based on Open Source Software, there is a danger that in contracting through the private sector, government organisations and agencies will be locked into proprietary approaches and systems.
  • Privacy and Security. There is a general societal issue over data privacy and security. Obviously the more data available, the grater the potential for developing better and cost effective services. At the same time the deeper the linking of data, the more likely is it that data will be disclosive.
  • Data Quality and Compatibility. There would appear to be a wide variety in the quality of the different data sets presently available. Furthermore, the format of much published government data renders its use problematic. There is a need for open standards to ensure compatibility.
  • Data ownership. Even in the limited field of GIS data there are a wide range of different organisations who own or supply data. This may include public agencies, but also for instance utility and telecoms companies. They may not wish to share data or may wish to charge for this data.
  • Procurement regulations. Whilst much of the innovation in the use of data comes from Small and Medium Enterprises, procurement regulations and Framework Contracts tend to exclude these organisations from tendering for contracts.

 

LMI for All API released

June 9th, 2013 by Graham Attwell

I have written periodic updates on the work we have been doing for the UKCES on open data, developing an open API to provide access to Labour Market Information. Although the APi is specifically targeted towards careers guidance organisations and towards end users looking for data to help in careers choices, in the longer term it may be of interest to others involved in labour market analysis and planning and for those working in economic, education and social planning.

The project has had to overcome a number of barriers, especially around the issues of disclosure, confidentiality and statistical reliability. The first public release of the API is now available. The following text is based on an email sent to interested individuals and organisations. Get in touch if you would like more information or would like to develop applications based on the API.

The screenshot above is of one of the ten applications developed at a hack day organised by one of our partners in the project, Rewired State. You can see all ten on their website.

The first pilot release of LMI for All is now available and to send you some details about this. Although this is a pilot version, it is fully functional and it would be great if you could test it as a pilot and let us know what is working well and what needs to be improved.

The main LMI for All site is at http://www.lmiforall.org.uk/.  This contains information about LMI for All and how it can be used.

The APi web explorer for developers can be accessed at http://api.lmiforall.org.uk/.  The APi is currently open for you to test and explore the potential for  development. If you wish to deploy the APi in your web site or application please email us at graham10 [at] mac [dot] com and we will supply you with an APi key.

For technical details and details about the data go to our wiki at http://collab.lmiforall.org.uk/.  This includes all the documentation including details about what data LMI for All includes and how this can be used.  There is also a frequently asked questions section.

Ongoing feedback from your organisation is an important part of the ongoing development of this data tool because we want to ensure that future improvements to LMI for All are based on feedback from people who have used it. To enable us to integrate this feedback into the development process, if you use LMI for All we will want to contact you about every four to six months to ask how things are progressing with the data tool. Additionally, to help with the promotion and roll out of LMI for All towards the end of the development period (second half of 2014), we may ask you for your permission to showcase particular LMI applications that your organisation chooses to develop.

If you have any questions, or need any further help, please use the FAQ space initially. However, if you have any specific questions which cannot be answered here, please use the LMI for All email address lmiforall [at] ukces [dot] org [dot] uk.

 

Big Data without Big Meaning is just like Crude Oil

June 9th, 2013 by Graham Attwell

I am doing some research at the moment on Big Data. There is truly a lot of hubris out there, never mind the controversy over privacy and the US security services attempts to mine our data.  I have found a few papers and presentations which provide a more thoughtful approach, among them this excellent presentation on Big Data and the future of journalism by Gerd Leonhard.

Anonymising open data

December 6th, 2012 by Graham Attwell

Here is the next in our occasional series about open and linked data. I wrote in a previous post that we are worki8ngt on developing an application for visualising Labour market Information for use in careers guidance.

One of the major issues we face is the anonymity of the data. fairly obviously, the mo0re sources of data are linked, the more possible it may become to identify people through the data. The UK information Commissioner’s Office has recently published a code of practice on “Anonymisation: managing data protection risk” and set up an Anonymisation Network. In the foreword to the code of practice they say:

The UK is putting more and more data into the public domain.

The government’s open data agenda allows us to find out more than ever about the performance of public bodies. We can piece together a picture that gives us a far better understanding of how our society operates and how things could be improved. However, there is also a risk that we will be able to piece together a picture of individuals’ private lives too. With ever increasing amounts of personal information in the public domain, it is important that organisations have a structured and methodical approach to assessing the risks.

The key points about the code are listed as:

  • Data protection law does not apply to data rendered anonymous in such a way that the data subject is no longer identifiable. Fewer legal restrictions apply to anonymised data.
  • The anonymisation of personal data is possible and can help service society’s information needs in a privacy-friendly way.
  • The code will help all organisations that need to anonymise personal data, for whatever purpose.
  • The code will help you to identify the issues you need to consider to ensure the anonymisation of personal data is effective.
  • The code focuses on the legal tests required in the Data Protection Act
Particularly useful are the Appendices which presents a list of key anonymisation techniques, examples and case studies and a discussion of the advantages and disadvantages of each. These include:
  • Partial data removal
  • Data quarantining
  • Pseudonymisation
  • Aggregation
  • Derived data items and banding
The report is well worth reading for anyone interested in open and linked data – even if you are not from the UK. Note for some reason files are downloading with an ashx suffix. But if you just change this locally to pdf they will  open fine.

Open data and Careers Choices

November 21st, 2012 by Graham Attwell

A number of readers have asked me about our ongoing work on using data for careers guidance. I am happy to say that after our initial ‘proof of process’ or prototype project undertaken for the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES), we have been awarded a new contract as part of a consortium to develop a database and open APi. The project is called LMI4All and we will work with colleagues from the University of Warwick and Raycom.

The database will draw on various sources of labour market data including the Office of National Statistics (ONS) Labour Force Survey (LFS) and the Annual survey of Hours and Earnings (ASHE). Although we will be developing some sample clients and will be organising a hackday and a modding day with external developers, it is hoped that the availability of an open API will encourage other organisations and developers to design and develop their own apps.

Despite the support for open data at a policy level in the UK and the launch of a series of measures to support the development of an open data community, projects such as this face a number of barriers. In the coming weeks, I will write a short series of articles looking at some of these issues.

In the meantime, here is an extract from the UKCES Briefing Paper about the project. You can download the full press release (PDF) at the bottom of this post. And if you would like to be informed about progress with the project, or better still are interested in being involved as a tester or early adapter, please get in touch.

What is LMI for All?

LMI for All is a data tool that the UK Commission for Employment and Skills is developing to bring together existing sources of labour market information (LMI) that can inform people’s decisions about their careers.

The outcome won’t be a new website for individuals to access but a tool that seeks to make the data freely available and to encourage open use by applications and websites which can bring the data to life for varying audiences.

At heart this is an open data project, which will support the wider government agenda to encourage use and re-use of government data sets.

What will the benefits be?

The data tool will put people in touch with some of the most robust LMI from our national surveys/sources therefore providing a common and consistent baseline for people to use alongside wider intelligence.

The data tool will have an access layer which will include guidance for developers about what the different data sources mean and how they can be used without compromising quality or confidentiality. This will help ensure that data is used appropriately and encourage the use of data in a form that suits a non-technical audience.

What LMI sources will be included?

The data tool will include LMI that can answer the questions people commonly ask when thinking about their careers, including ‘what do people get paid?’ and ‘what type of person does that job?’. It will include data about characteristics of people who work in different occupations, what qualifications they have, how much they get paid, and allow people to make comparisons across different jobs.

The first release of the data tool will include information from the Labour Force Survey and the Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings. We will be consulting with other organisations that own data during the project to extend the range of LMI available through the data tool.

LMI for All Briefing Paper

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    Consultation

    Diana Laurillard, Chair of ALT, has invited contributions to a consultation on education technology to provide input to ETAG, the Education Technology Action Group, which was set up in England in February 2014 by three ministers: Michael Gove, Matthew Hancock and David Willetts.

    The deadline for contributions is 23 June at http://goo.gl/LwR65t.


    Social Tech Guide

    The Nominet Trust have announced their new look Social Tech Guide.

    The Social Tech Guide first launched last year, initially as a home to the 2013 Nominet Trust 100 – which they describe as a list of 100 inspiring digital projects tackling the world’s most pressing social issues.

    In  a press relase they say: “With so many social tech ventures out there supporting people and enforcing positive change on a daily basis, we wanted to create a comprehensive resource that allows us to celebrate and learn from the pioneers using digital technology to make a real difference to millions of lives.

    The Social Tech Guide now hosts a collection of 100′s of social tech projects from around the world tackling everything from health issues in Africa to corruption in Asia. You can find out about projects that have emerged out of disaster to ones that use data to build active and cohesive communities. In fact, through the new search and filter functionality on the site, you should find it quick and easy to immerse yourself in an inspiring array of social tech innovations.”


    Code Academy expands

    The New York-based Codecademy has translated its  learn-to-code platform into three new languages today and formalized partnerships in five countries.

    So if you speak French, Spanish or Portuguese, you can now access the Codecademy site and study all of its resources in your native language.

    Codecademy teamed up with Libraries Without Borders (Bibliotheques sans Frontieres) to tackle the French translation and is now working on pilot programs that should reduce unemployment and bring programming into schools. In addition, Codecademy will be weaving its platform into Ideas Box, a humanitarian project that helps people in refugee camps and disaster zones to learn new skills. Zach Sims, CEO of Codecademy, says grants from the public and private sector in France made this collaboration possible.

    The Portuguese translation was handled in partnership with The Lemann Foundation, one of the largest education foundations in Brazil. As with France, Codecademy is planning several pilots to help Brazilian speakers learn new skills. Meanwhile in Buenos Aires, Argentina, the company has been working closely with the local government on a Spanish version of its popular site.

    Codecademy is also linking up up with the Tiger Leap program in Estonia, with the aim of teaching every school student how to program.


    Open online STEM conference

    The Global 2013 STEMx Education Conference claims to be the world’s first massively open online conference for educators focusing on Science, Technology, Engineering, Math, and more. The conference is being held over the course of three days, September 19-21, 2013, and is free to attend!
    STEMxCon is a highly inclusive event designed to engage students and educators around the globe and we encourage primary, secondary, and tertiary (K-16) educators around the world to share and learn about innovative approaches to STEMx learning and teaching.

    To find out about different sessions and to login to events go to http://bit.ly/1enFDFB


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