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Crowd-Sourced Mapping for Open Government

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The Program on Information Science is pleased to continue a series of brown bag lunch talks addressing topics from preservation storage technology, to University Library hiring practices, to "3D …

The Program on Information Science is pleased to continue a series of brown bag lunch talks addressing topics from preservation storage technology, to University Library hiring practices, to "3D Printing," with speakers from MIT and beyond.

Title: Crowd Source Mapping for Open Government

Discussant: Dr. Micah Altman, Director of Research, MIT Libraries


This talk reflects on lessons learned about open data, public participation, technology, and data management from conducting crowd-sourced election mapping efforts.

Published in: Technology, News & Politics

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  • This work. “The Public Mapping Project”, by Micah Altman (http://redistricting.info) is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 United States License. To view a copy of this license, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/us/ or send a letter to Creative Commons, 171 Second Street, Suite 300, San Francisco, California, 94105, USA.
  • This work. by Micah Altman (http://micahaltman.com) is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 United States License. To view a copy of this license, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/us/ or send a letter to Creative Commons, 171 Second Street, Suite 300, San Francisco, California, 94105, USA.
  • The structure and design of digital storage systems is a cornerstone of digital preservation. To better understand ongoing storage practices of organizations committed to digital preservation, the National Digital Stewardship Alliance conducted a survey of member organizations. This talk discusses findings from this survey, common gaps, and trends in this area.(I also have a little fun highlighting the hidden assumptions underlying Amazon Glacier's reliability claims. For more on that see this earlier post: http://drmaltman.wordpress.com/2012/11/15/amazons-creeping-glacier-and-digital-preservation )
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    • 1. Crowd-Sourced Mapping for Open Government
    • 2. Prepared for MIT Libraries Informatics Program Brown Bag Talk December 2013 Crowd-Sourced Mapping for Open Government Dr. Micah Altman <escience@mit.edu> Director of Research, MIT Libraries
    • 3. DISCLAIMER These opinions are my own, they are not the opinions of MIT, Brookings, any of the project funders, nor (with the exception of co-authored previously published work) my collaborators Secondary disclaimer: “It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future!” -- Attributed to Woody Allen, Yogi Berra, Niels Bohr, Vint Cerf, Winston Churchill, Confucius, Disreali [sic], Freeman Dyson, Cecil B. Demille, Albert Einstein, Enrico Fermi, Edgar R. Fiedler, Bob Fourer, Sam Goldwyn, Allan Lamport, Groucho Marx, Dan Quayle, George Bernard Shaw, Casey Stengel, Will Rogers, M. Taub, Mark Twain, Kerr L. White, etc. Crowd-Sourced Mapping for Open Government
    • 4. Collaborators & Co-Conspirators • Michael P. McDonald, George Mason University • Research Support Thanks to the the Sloan Foundation, the Joyce Foundation, the Judy Ford Watson Center for Public Policy, Amazon Corporation Crowd-Sourced Mapping for Open Government
    • 5. Related Work • • • • • • • • Altman, Micah, and Michael P McDonald (2014) ―Paradoxes of Political Reform: Congressional Redistricting in Florida‖, in Jigsaw Politics in the Sunshine State, University Press of Florida. Forthcoming. Altman, Micah, and Michael P McDonald. (2014) ―Public Participation GIS : The Case of Redistricting.‖ Proceedings of the 47th Annual Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences. Computer Society Press (IEEE). Micah Altman, Michael P McDonald (2013) ―A Half-Century of Virginia Redistricting Battles: Shifting from Rural Malapportionment to Voting Rights to Public Participation‖. Richmond Law Review. Micah Altman, Michael P McDonald (2012) Redistricting Principles for the TwentyFirst Century, 1-26. In Case-Western Law Review 62 (4). Micah Altman, Michael P. McDonald (2012) Technology for Public Participation in Redistricting. In Redistricting and Reapportionment in the West, Lexington Press. Altman, M., & McDonald, M. P. (2011). The Dawn of Do-It-Yourself Redistricting ? Campaigns & Elections, (January), 38-42 Michael Altman, Michael P McDonald (2011) BARD: Better automated redistricting, 128. In Journal Of Statistical Software 42 (4). Micah Altman, M MCDONALD (2010) The Promise and Perils of Computers in Redistricting, 69–159. In Duke J Const Law Pub Policy Most reprints available from: informatics.mit.edu Crowd-Sourced Mapping for Open Government
    • 6. This Talk • Political Boundary Mapping & Open Government • Building a Platform for Crowd-Sourced Political Boundary Mapping • Are Publicly Created Maps Different? • Future R&D Crowd-Sourced Mapping for Open Government
    • 7. Political Boundary Mapping Crowd-Sourced Mapping for Open Government
    • 8. Definitions? Electoral Boundary Delimitation. The aim of electoral boundary delimitation is to assign people to equipopulous geographical districts from which they will elect representatives, in order to reflect communities of interest and to improve representation. Gerrymandering. Gerrymandering is a form of political boundary delimitation, or redistricting, in which the boundaries are selected to produce an outcome that is improperly favorable to some group. The name “gerrymander” was first used by the Boston Gazette in 1812 to describe the shape of Massachusetts Governor Elbridge Ger- ry’s redistricting plan, in which one district was said to have resembled a salamander. Crowd-Sourced Mapping for Open Government
    • 9. Maybe Use a Computer? only had manpower and ―In ―Until recentlyof thispolitical partiesequalthepopulation. Nowthe tools to redrawthis summary, keeping districtstechnology and educationpolitically play eliminationdescribe a — feedandanybody can last ofingerrymandering the ―The rapid advancesway to do reapportionment simple into the computer ―There is only one in computer to during would boundaries while Article is … ―The purpose two decadesrequire thewhich canasdraw contiguousan analysis firm Caliper all the to least as aitkibitzer. Forsimple toreapportion aof districts of equal game, computer relatively as little $3,500 the legislature or other feasibleat make program registration.‖ seem factors except politicalestablishmentgeographicautomatic population Reagan havesame time to and census data you need to redistricting - Ronald [and] at the the software further whatever secondary goalsnovel Corp. will let you [Goff 1973] body of people who represent geo- graphical districts. …The try out the and impersonaldesigned to implement carrying outothers have put “Let a computer do it” State has.”proposed is procedure for the value judgments of geometries on a PC screen. Harvard researcher Micah Altman and a program - -Washington Post,in that Justice Brennan, appears to districts. at all difficult together a program Karcher v. Daggett [Nagel those responsible for reapportionment‖–(1983) 1965] redistricting. It2003 draws compactbe notHis software is free. to ( And many, many blogs) devise rules for doing this which a census, a commission in each Democratic redistricting could work like this. After will produce state entertains proposals from the political parties and any do-gooder group or results not markedly inferior to those which would individual willing to compete. The commission picks the most compact be solution, according to some simple criterion. (Say, add up the miles of boundary arrived at by a genuinely disinterested lines, giving any segments that track 1961] a 50% discount, and go for commission.‖ -- [Vickrey municipal bordersinspire some gifted amateurs the shortest total.) The mathematical challenge might to weigh in.” – William Baldwin, Forbes 2008
    • 10. Two Challenges It’s hard. (Optimal delimitation with simple criteria is NP-hard [Altman 1997]) Neutral criteria, aren’t. (Parker 1990) 1 r é r! ù r n S( n,r) = å ê( -1) ( r - i) ú= r! i=0 ë ( r - i)!i!û Crowd-Sourced Mapping for Open Government
    • 11. Trends in computing use for boundary delimitation? 2000 1990 1980 • First production use 1960-70 • Research systems, de mos • Common use of GIS for congressional boundaries • GIS = Decision Support • Professional Only • Bespoke systems Crowd-Sourced Mapping for Open Government • Web – disseminate government information • Ubiquitous GIS on desktop Source: Altman, MacDonald, McDonald 2005
    • 12. What’s next? 2020 2010 • Web/GIS “2.0” • Transparency • Public Engagement • ??? • AI tools for computer-aided boundary • Public Government Collaboration? • Social collaboration? • “CAD” tools? Crowd-Sourced Mapping for Open Government
    • 13. Building a Platform Crowd-Sourced Mapping for Open Government
    • 14. Public Mapping Project Goals • Identify principles for transparency and public participation in redistricting • Enable the public to draw maps of the communities and redistricting plans for their states – Facilitate public input to process – Inform the public debate – Provide maps for courts where litigation occurs Crowd-Sourced Mapping for Open Government
    • 15. Principles for Transparency  All redistricting plans should include sufficient information such that the public can verify, reproduce, and evaluate a plan  Proposed redistricting plans should be publicly available in non-proprietary formats.  Public redistricting services should provide the public with the ability to make available all published redistricting plans and community boundaries in non-proprietary formats.   Public redistricting services must provide documentation of any organizations providing significant contributions to their operation. All demographic, electoral and geographic data necessary to create legal redistricting plans and define community boundaries should be publicly available, under a license allowing reuse of these data for non-commercial purposes.  The criteria used to evaluate plans and districts should be documented.    Software used to automatically create or improve redistricting plans should be either open-source or provide documentation sufficient for the public to replicate the results using independent software. Software used to generate reports that analyze redistricting plans should be accompanied by documentation of data, methods, and procedures sufficient for the reports to be verified by the public. Software necessary to replicate the creation or analysis of redistricting plans and community boundaries produced by the service must be publicly available.
    • 16. Supporting a Public Mapping Workflow -- Initial Features • Create – Create districts and plans • Evaluate – Visualize – Summarize • Population balance • Geographic compactness • Completeness and contiguity – Report in depth • Share – Import & export plans – Publish a plan Crowd-Sourced Mapping for Open Government
    • 17. Added Features in 2010-13 • • • • • Shapefile import/export PDF ―printing‖ Open data – link to original data Throttling Data administration – add new data through administrative web interface • Community layers – add your own community, publish, and check for splits • Scoreboards, contest submission workflows • Internationalization – Localization in French, English, Spanish, Japanese Crowd-Sourced Mapping for Open Government
    • 18. Builds on Best-of-Class Open Source Software Crowd-Sourced Mapping for Open Government
    • 19. (Also Award Winning)     Named one of the top ten political innovations of 2011 by Politico Winner of the 2012 data innovation award, for data used for social impact, by Strata Winner of the 2012 award for outstanding software development, by American Political Science Association Winner of the 2013 Tides Pizzigati Prize Crowd-Sourced Mapping for Open Government
    • 20. Platform Interface Example Crowd-Sourced Mapping for Open Government
    • 21. Sign in – Or just View Open Data Open Access Prepared for 2011 CGA Conference at Harvard University Open Source 21
    • 22. Choose Your Legislature Prepared for 2011 CGA Conference at Harvard University 22
    • 23. Get the Picture – Visualize Successful Prepared for 2011 CGA Conference at Harvard University 23
    • 24. Drill Down – Get The Facts Prepared for 2011 CGA Conference at Harvard University 24
    • 25. Make A Plan Prepared for 2011 CGA Conference at Harvard University 25
    • 26. Get the Details Prepared for 2011 CGA Conference at Harvard University 26
    • 27. Run The Numbers Prepared for 2011 CGA Conference at Harvard University 27
    • 28. Is it legal? How Well Are You Doing? Who’s Doing Better? Prepared for 2011 CGA Conference at Harvard University 28
    • 29. Spread the Word  Share your plans with others in the system  Publish links  Have a contest Prepared for 2011 CGA Conference at Harvard University 29
    • 30. Intervention Part 1 - Platform Crowd-Sourced Mapping for Open Government
    • 31. Are Public Maps Different? Crowd-Sourced Mapping for Open Government
    • 32. Our Solution: Increase Public Participation Draw the Lines? Evaluate maps? Watch the News Interest Get the data Information Seeking Debate & Commentary Propose Alternatives Consultative Government Crowd-Sourced Mapping for Open Government
    • 33. How has DistrictBuilder been used?  For Transparency:   Public understanding   Dissemination Evaluation/comparison For Education:   Classroom teaching   Staff training Student competitions For Participation:    Integrated into official decision process Non-partisan public organizations For Election Administration:  Internal collaboration/analysis sharing  Support for commission Crowd-Sourced Mapping for Open Government
    • 34. Where has DistrictBuilder been used?  Used in 10 states  More than 1000 legal plans created by the public  Thousands of public participants  Millions of viewers Crowd-Sourced Mapping for Open Government
    • 35. Intervention - Redistricting Competitions    Arizona, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, New York, Virginia, City of Philadelphia Inspire participation Transform the redistricting story Crowd-Sourced Mapping for Open Government
    • 36. Virginia Redistricting Competition • Participants – Eligible: Any student from Virginia College/University • Incentives – Potential media attention – Honorarium: $200 – Prizes: $500-$2000 • Criteria – Legally required redistricting criteria: equal population, contiguity, voting rights, completeness – Good government criteria: communities of interest, county & city boundaries, competitiveness, partisan balance – Explanatory narrative • Timeline – Nov 2010 (recruitment) -March 2011 (awards) Crowd-Sourced Mapping for Open Government
    • 37. Plan Evaluation Criteria Majority-Minority Representation Number of districts in which minority population > 50% of the district Population Equality percentage deviation from ideal district population County Integrity Number of times counties & independent cities are split by districts Compactness Normalized ratio of (perimeter of district)/(area of district)^2 Partisan Balance Number of Republican leaning districts minus Number of Democratic-leaning districts Competitiveness Number of districts with normal Democratic vote share in [45%55%] Crowd-Sourced Mapping for Open Government
    • 38. Data Domain: Virginia Redistricting Proposals - All redistricting plans submitted by members of the public - All redistricting plans proposed by legislature - All plans proposed by redistricting commission Exclusions: - Proposals that did not meet minimum legal criteria - Plans developed internally by legislature, but never proposed publicly Crowd-Sourced Mapping for Open Government
    • 39. Examples: Winning Plans ! ! Crowd-Sourced Mapping for Open Government
    • 40. Results: VA Congress Crowd-Sourced Mapping for Open Government
    • 41. Results: VA Senate Crowd-Sourced Mapping for Open Government
    • 42. Results: VA House Crowd-Sourced Mapping for Open Government
    • 43. Results from Virginia • Students can create legal districting plans. • The “best” plan, as ranked by each individual criterion, was a student plan. • Student plans – demonstrated a wider range of possibilities than other entities. – covered a larger set of possible tradeoffs among each criterion. – were generally better on pairs of criteria. • Student plans were more competitive and had more partisan balance than any of the adopted plans. Crowd-Sourced Mapping for Open Government
    • 44. Preview of Florida • Yes, Virginia, the public can draw districts • Revealed preferences of the legislature – stick it to the Democrats Crowd-Sourced Mapping for Open Government
    • 45. Observations • There is likely a tension, particularly among state legislative districts, among greater population equality, compactness, and respect for local political boundaries. • Political reform goals may be more reliably implemented by including them explicitly in redistricting criteria, not subsuming them in other administrative criteria. • Effective redistricting reform will include a role for the on-line public participation in line-drawing and evaluation. Crowd-Sourced Mapping for Open Government
    • 46. Lessons for Future Engagement • What works – – – • Technology barriers – – • Technology is an enabler … many more plans created by public than in previous decades Engagement of good-government groups, or other advocates is also critical to public participation Permeability of government authorities (legislature, courts) to public input needed to have significant effect Tools for collaborative construction Tools for web-based visualization and analytics Government resistance through data availability – – Not providing election results merged with census geography Redistricting authorities may purposefully restrict the scope of the information they make available. • – – • For example, a number of states chose to make available boundaries and information related to the approved plan only. Non-machine readable formats No API or automatable way to retrieve plans/data Forms of government impermeability – – – Authorities blatantly resist public input by providing no recognized channel for it; or Create a nominal channel, but leaving it devoid of funding or process;or Procedurally accept input, but substantively ignore it Crowd-Sourced Mapping for Open Government
    • 47. Future R&D Crowd-Sourced Mapping for Open Government
    • 48. Future Research • Analyze results from other states – over a dozen states had public processes • • • • Randomized interventions Evaluate effect on participants Computer-aided automated redistricting Characterizing plans – semantic fingerprints for maps • General methods and tools for eliciting geospatially based preferences and opinions – Combine: What’s your community?; What’s your opinion?; What’s your location – Integrate: Data collection & management and distribution – Sustain: Reintegrate editing workflows into core open-source GIStools Crowd-Sourced Mapping for Open Government
    • 49. Additional References • • Altman, Micah. "Is automation the answer: the computational complexity of automated redistricting." Rutgers Computer and Law Technology Journal 23 (1997).Altman, Micah, Karin MacDonald, and Michael McDonald. "From Crayons to Computers The Evolution of Computer Use in Redistricting." Social Science Computer Review 23.3 (2005): 334-346. Parker, Frank R. Black votes count: Political empowerment in Mississippi after 1965. UNC Press, 1990. Crowd-Sourced Mapping for Open Government
    • 50. Questions? E-mail: Web: escience@mit.edu informatics.mit.edu Crowd-Sourced Mapping for Open Government