‘Methods’ Category

climaps.eu, a global issue atlas of adaptation to climate change, is online

November 21st, 2014

Climate change is happening; we have no choice but to adapt. Yet how are we going to live with a changing climate? How are we going to share the burden of adaptation among countries, regions and communities? How to be fair to all human and non-human beings affected by such a planetary transition? Since our collective life depends on these questions, they deserve discussion, debate and even controversy.

To provide some help to navigate in the uncharted territories that lead to our future, the three-year EMAPS project has produced an electronic atlas called Climaps.

The atlas offers 33 data visualizations. They deal with topics ranging from the funding of adaptation, the calculations of vulnerability to climate change, to the scenarios of the future in the cli-fi literature. The atlas also proposes 5 issue stories that bind together visualizations to produce novel narratives about climate change adaptation.

Digital data have been harvested, processed and visualized through a unique methodology created by the teams involved in EMAPS, which the médialab coordinated until its end on October 31st. This methodology involves working right from the start with the communities of experts that the maps are addressing. In the future, it could be applied to other issues of societal and political relevance.

EMAPS (Electronic Maps to Assist Public Science) was funded under the EU FP7 Science in Society Programme.

For more information write us at info@climaps.eu.

Sprint / International negotiations on climate change adaptation

November 18th, 2013

Dear all, here is a short outline on the preparation of the Paris Sprint.

  • Dates & Venue

Jan 6th to 10th, at Sciences Po, Paris. We have pre-booked rooms in a nearby hotel.

  • Programme

Under deverlopment.

The first morning will be dedicated to presentations by alpha-users. Then, we will form interdisciplinary teams of 5/6 people constituted of EMAPS members + friends.

  • Topic

Adaptation is a latecomer on the scene of climate negotiations and is, to a large extent, unfit to such arena. Rooted in the tradition of United Nations diplomacy, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) was originally instituted to address the eminently global challenge of greenhouse gases reduction through mitigation.

Local in its actions and effects, adaptation definitely entered the UNFCCC arena in 2000, when the inevitability of climate change impacts became evident and with it the need of developing countries to find international support for adaptation policies. In this framework, adaptation has largely become a question of financial flows.

Since mid-2000, however, the place of adaptation in the international negotiations has grown incessantly and actors have been struggling to put new issues on the negotiation agenda. The traditional boundaries of the UNFCCC are thus under pressure.

The controversies relating to the international negotiations on climate change adaptation tend to fall into two categories:

1. The controversies that take place within the UNFCCC itself and concern the rationales governing the transactions of adaptation money and the arguments and issues mobilized to support them:

a. What is adaptation money? A help from rich to poor countries to prepare for future climate change impacts (according to the development paradigm) VS a compensation from polluting to polluted countries to repair the current climate impacts (according to the “loss and damage” paradigm) VS a contribution to anticipate current extreme events (according to “disaster risk reduction” paradigm) ?
b. How should adaptation money be transferred? Which countries and institutions should govern the ‘adaptation funds’? How should the use of the money be monitored and accounted for? Which type of institutions should this funds be and how they should be organized?
c. Which objectives should drive financial aid for adaptation? decrease vulnerability to climate impacts (e.g. sea level, extreme events, droughts, environmental migrations, etc.)? increase adaptive capacity (e.g. poverty reduction, water security, food security, land use change, economic compensation, security, etc.)?
d. For all the previous questions, we can also ask who defended which position and when a given position or controversy was more discussed.

2. The controversies that take place outside the UNFCCC, or on the sideline of it, and concern the representativeness and the weight of the Convention’s negotiations in the larger debate on adaptation.

a. To what extent an essentially local problem such as adaptation can be managed effectively through an international forum?
b. When and to what extent issues discussed outside the UNFCCC in relation to adaptation have (or have not) become the subject of international negotiations?
c. Are the discourses of the actors in the negotiation coherent with their discourses and actions outside the UNFCCC?
d. How do non-national actors (NGOs, industrial lobbies) engage in and influence the negotiations ?

  •  Datasets

ENB reports
Climate Funds Update
Web corpus
Scientific literature
IPCC reports
UNFCCC documents (included COP country submissions, side events and SBSTA reports)
(if we have time) adaptation projects from different project collections
(The NY Times articles)

  • Alpha-users

We have contacted experts potentially interested in co-producing the maps with us, whom we adress as “alpha-users”. We want 5/6 of them. The contacted persons might of course redirect us to other experts. We will discuss the content of their presentation beforehand.
We are in discussion with Neil Adger & Richard Klein (academics), Alix Mazounie (NGO), Troels Dam Christensen (NGO/negotiator), the Green Climate Fund…
  • Other participants

EMAPS members : I already got some answers. Here is the form which you are invited to fill in to confirm your participation ASAP (and before the end of the week) :


EMAPS members are encouraged to stay the whole duration of the Sprint.

Advisors : we have sent an invitation to Pelle Ehn and David Chavalarias.

Students : we plan to have 3 Density Design former students.

Issue experts : we want to have experts of the climate controversy (apart from Mark who will be there as well) like Amy Dahan & Christophe Buffet (Centre Alexandre Koyré), Clive Hamilton, Alice Caravani of Climate Funds Update (Overseas Development Institute). François Gemenne will moderate the presentations by alpha-users on the first morning.

  • Expenses

All expenses including transportation will be borne by Sciences Po. We will book hotel rooms, but we ask EMAPS participants to take care of their own travel, which will be reimbursed after the sprint.


A speculative blog post about changing how we engage with issue professionals in the design and production of issue maps within EMAPS

December 10th, 2012

Ahead of our two-day workshop in London later this week, I present some suggestions that follow on from our discussions in the project team about we can engage productively with people who might use the issue maps we are creating in the project. As I understand it, the role of The Young Foundation in the EMAPS project is primarily about helping to engage with people beyond the project team, specifically with the communities of issue professionals working on the two topics.

This post builds on recent emails and skype meetings between us; our small workshop in Oxford in October (see posts by Michele and Benedetta in Milano and by me afterwards, with comments by other EMAPS team members), as well as our June meeting in London (see posts by Tommaso) and discussions about the design process by Milano and Paris.

I will cover

  • a narrative about the project’s trajectory to date in terms of engaging with issue professionals, written from a personal perspective as someone working within YF on EMAPs since March 2012 (when I was employed there, and now freelance);
  • a brief introduction to some concepts and methods from the fields of Participatory Design and Design Research, which offer some approaches that could move EMAPS towards a more participatory mode of designing/using maps in the context of a research project;
  • a speculative description of what these concepts and methods might look like in practice, if the EMAPS team decided to use them.


Preparing for the EMAPS workshop in Oxford

October 14th, 2012

Lucy and I have been preparing for the next workshop on the developing maps to be held in Oxford on Friday (12th October). In addition to our lead ‘user’, we have invited four health and social care professionals, who are all experts in their fields (policy, volunteer organisations, advocacy, arts).

The aim of the session is threefold: (1) elicit discussion about what maps are useful and for what purposes, (2) observe, listen, record and synthesize information about the use and purpose of maps and (3) ascertain “what these maps do” for these people and how they could use them.

The way we intend to achieve these objectives involves three stages:

- Present each core question on which the maps are based

- Discuss what this core question/issue means to health and social care professionals. ie.How it matters to their work? How and in what ways it matters to their colleagues?

- Show the map/s and set a group task in which participants are asked to use the map to ascertain directions/ outcomes. Further discussion will be encouraged.

We will be documenting the workshop in various ways; notes, audio, video and still photos.

Design process

August 9th, 2012

We’d like to share in this post our thoughts after the workshop at Young Foundation in London: it gave us the opportunity to think over the (communication) design process in the context of controversies mapping and the way this process should work in order to produce meaningful visualizations and to make the whole EMAPS project more effective.

The relationship between mapping of controversies and communication design is a recent one, and – in our knowledge – there are no documented case histories we can build upon. We’re experiencing since two years the application of communication design specific competences in cartography of controversies: we worked mainly with students so far, and with a limited scale both in terms of people/organizations involved and project duration, compared to EMAPS. So we really think that the EMAPS project in general, especially in this phase, is a great opportunity to discuss, define and test a possible model for our design process, through a typical learning by doing approach. We’re now finalizing the work on ageing and moving towards the next (and bigger) controversy; we’re now in the middle of a new iteration with new users and stakeholders: what better opportunity to refine our design process, building on what we learned in London? Well, evaluating workshop’s maps is difficult because the visual design criticalities are mixed with data ones: if a user, using a map, doesn’t find anything interesting, is it a design criticality (we’ve not been successful to convey the data richness) or a data one (the data is useless for user’s needs)? The same data, shown in a different way, would have been more effective?

In our experience, it is very difficult to answer these questions.

Why is it so difficult? During the map creation and the workshop, we identified two main criticalities that can be summarized in two main issues:

-       The “Why”: it is not clear to the user what kind of information data should convey (like the Wikipedia maps). “Why are you showing me this?” It should be clearer from beginning why a certain data is useful to answer a research question.

-       The “What”: drawing the maps, we found difficult to identify the data features we have to spot out. From the same dataset, we can focus on several features: which ones are useful to find an answer the research question? Before designing it, we must be able to answer this question: what the user must see with this visualization?

We strongly believes in data visualization potential. While our role is closely related to the final output, our involvement should not be only a “cap” on top of the research pipeline. Visual design doesn’t just make things more catching or sparkling – it makes things visible. Data errors, mistakes and criticalities will be more evident in visualization. This means that an effective visualisation, based on faulty data, will return a faulty interaction with the user.

As we are using protocols that often return uncertain data (due to the nature of the subject matter), it is important during the whole process to evaluate whether we’re still creating information that really answers the research question.

If the above information (why we are presenting that data, what should emerge from it) is clear and shared, the design process is more robust and simpler to evaluate.

As we saw during the first experiment (London) the process is neither standard nor linear. It is a process made up of many loops, which are difficult to predict. Our suggestion is to break it in four main phases in which design have a different level of involvement to evaluate the process effectiveness.

The description below is qualitative: phases are not temporally equals, depending from the context they can be longer or shorter, and sometimes can overlap. Our main objective, the one we’re asking your opinion, is to set a series of goals for each phase.

First phase: hypothesis

Dialogue between domain experts and data experts in order to identify research questions that is possible to answer using chosen methods. Both of them must keep in mind who the users are: will they be able to get the answer from the data produced?

Even if the data is not yet available, researchers should identify what kind of information they will create: which are the objects? Which are their properties? Are there links between the elements? Are there different kinds of objects?

Design won’t play an active role in this phase, but it must have a clear knowledge of the research question, the used protocol, and what kind of information should emerge from visualization.

The definition of the data architecture (elements and properties) is the base for a visual hypothesis: how can we visualize this kind of information in order to enable users to build their answers?

At the end of this phase, the designers should know:

-       The research question

-       The analysis method that will be used and the output (data) it should give back

-       Why that kind of analysis is useful to answer the research question (it must be explicit!)

Second phase: data extraction and validation

Data experts should identify what are the data sources, the analysis protocols, and set up the data extraction.

During this phase, it’s important for the design part to identify the data format they’ll need for the visualization, and the process to get it from raw data.

Moving from the raw data to visualization or interactive application implies lots of work on data itself: each visual model requires data builded in a specific way. Actions like data cleaning, normalization and transformation occupy much of the design process. These actions must be replicable as raw data can change (a new extraction, the identification of an error in the protocol…).

Objectives of this phase are:

-       Data format definition

-       Setup of data transformation process

Third Phase: sketching

Sketching in the framework of data and information visualization is not a linear process, but a cyclic one: depending on the complexity of the research questions and the data provided, it can require a different number of iterations.

As the data we’re using most of the times is unpredictable before the extraction, we have to proceed by trials and errors. We call “sketches” simple visualizations, produced on sample of real data, useful to evaluate the initial hypothesis. We want to remark the importance of using real data in this phase: the same visual model can be effective with a specific data but useless with another one. Just drawing an ideal case is not a valid proof.

Sketches validation requires the involvement of data experts and domain experts. Is the visualization respecting data features? Is it showing something real? Is the visualized data useful to the initial question? It’s useful to identify some research sub-questions to test the extracted data.

A second cycle of revision/validation is held with the final users. Can them find an answer to the research question with the visualization?

These two kinds of cycle help designers to correct the visual hypothesis to meet researchers, experts and users needs.

Fourth phase: production

This phase is the finalization and implementation of the visualization / interactive application. All the corrections and suggestions are already gathered in the previous phases, there is a full concordance on the shown data. Design can focus on communicative issues (perception, interaction features,…) having a clear vision of the visualization objectives. Revision cycles are focused on fine-tuning of visualization (readability, visual hierarchy…) and on interaction patterns (if producing an interactive application).

This post is an open proposition, we really need your help: tell us what you think about it, in order to define a shared model of our design process.


Identifying more Wikipedia articles related to Climate change

May 31st, 2012

In two previous posts (post 1, post 2) we have reported some metrics about a sample of 53 Wikipedia articles related to Climate Change, manually selected by Tommaso Venturini. The list contains probably the main articles related to this topic; however, given the wideness of Wikipedia we can suppose that many more articles concerning Climate Change exist, and it is hardly feasible to manually collect all of them. In this post we explain how we have expanded this list in a semi-automatic way, relying on Wikipedia’s category structure.

In Wikipedia, each article can be assigned to one or more categories, and each category can in turn be assigned to higher level categories. This can be achieved by any user just by inserting a special tag into a page.

Articles are usually not assigned directly to high level categories, to make the category structure usable: what if you had thousands of articles directly assigned to “Natural Sciences”? It would be impossible to make sense of the categories. Instead, most articles are only assigned to lower level categories, and these are in turn assigned to higher level categories.


Time Evolution of Controversies on Wikipedia

April 24th, 2012

Following up on one of our first blog entries we will introduce here briefly a study about the growth in complexity of discussions. A preprint of the study is available at arXiv.

The idea is to use a similar definition to the m-index introduced already by  J. E. Hirsch in his seminal paper about the h-index (the m-index of  a researcher  with and h-index of θ and who has first published a paper n years ago is m = θ/n).

To measure the growth in complexity we use the inverse of this definition.  First we refresh the definition of the h-index of a nested discussion.

The h-index of a discussion is the maximal number θ such that there are at least θ comments at level (depth) θ, but not θ + 1 comments at level θ + 1. Another possible definition would be that there are θ sub-threads of depth at least θ. (See here for a visual example).

We define then Δh as the average time (measured in days) it takes a discussion to increase its h-index by one.


Edit wars and dynamics of conflict in Wikipedia

March 27th, 2012

In a previous post we have shown how discussion patterns in talk pages associated to Wikipedia articles can be studied to identify conflict, while in another one we have applied these measures to characterize Wikipedia articles related to the climate change controversy.

A complementary approach, based on analyzing the edit history, has been more often adopted in literature to quantify conflict. In particular, several researchers focused on reverts, corresponding to edits in which a user undoes the changes introduced by another user. (more…)

Visualizing processes

March 26th, 2012

Each year we ask our students to visualize the protocol they followed.

We think that visualizing the way we collect data is important as representing the data itself: “how do you get this results”? is one of the most common questions that arise. Process communication is the first step to gather credit from our audience.

Each protocol isn’t a linear process: parts of it are “dead-ends”, they are experiments by which we try to understand if they’re or not useful for our purposes. Some visualizations simplify the process, removing the dead-end paths, and focusing on the final result. Some others represent all the work done, showing errors useful to identify the right solution. We choose some of them as examples of different way to visualize a protocol. (more…)

Aging research questions

March 23rd, 2012

At Young Foundation, Jacques has done a terrific job in proposing research questions to orient our digital exploration. I think that they may play a major role in guiding the workshop that Amsterdam is launching next week.
To make them more visible on the blog, I am re-posting here Jacques’s questions and I have played the game of reformulating some to make them more provocative (of course, Jacques will correct me if I have misinterpreted his questions). I hope that they will inspire the participant of Amsterdam workshop and that their results will in turn be capable to make our public react. Other partners are invited to play the same game (do not comment, edit this very same post so that the new questions are be showed next to old ones). The more we make these questions lively, the more chances we have to find interesting anwers. (more…)