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Blogathon 2009 – City Application Idea: Civic Mythbusters

Blogathon 2009 Vancouver for Vancouver Public Space NetworkThis blog post is part of Blogathon 2009, in which I am blogging for 24 hours straight in order to raise money for the Vancouver Public Space Network, an entirely volunteer-run organization who do advocacy and education on the public realm in my home of Vancouver, British Columbia. Please consider supporting by sponsoring me with a pledge, leaving a comment or contacting me to contribute a guest post.

One of the promises of Open Data (and I know this one well because I was the one who made it, during my presentation to Vancouver City Council) is that as citizens get access to the data about the services being provided to them and the state of the city that their tax dollars go towards running and maintaining, I proposed that we might be able to start having “conversations based in fact,” rather than speculation or anecdotal evidence.

To that end, I’m dreaming of something akin to a Civic Mythbusters website. Everyone’s got an urban legend or generalization that’s been passed around so often, it might as well be fact for the way people talk about it. But when the data to actually really truly verify the validity of a claim is made available and the analysis possible, well, why not do it?

Here’s one that speaks to my life as a resident: I live not too far from the future Canada Line. Many have speculated that once the line opens, crime will go up; it’s generally accepted as fact that this did in fact happen when the Expo Line opened.

Well, let’s subject this to some civic mythbusting:

  • what is the change in crime levels? (down or up?)
  • is the change consistent across the board for all crimes? (violent? property?)
  • are there any patterns that can be observed about the new crime patterns? (crimes peak just before the last train?)

This, of course, assumes that the information will be made available. (For instance, is crime or incident data from the TransLink transit police going to be available to us?) Sure, criminologists can do this analysis and tell us the results, but why not step us through and have someone mirror the results, like duplication in all good science is supposed to work?

What other myths can you think of about this city are in need of good mythbusting? Immigration population distribution (touchy subject)? Arts and theatre funding in high schools across the city? I feel like asking these questions in an enlightened manner and making the answers available is one place where there could be a lot of value for people who don’t know the questions are there to be asked, much less that we have answers for them.

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