How Calgary data analysts are donating time to help the city’s arts community

Natural language data analysis will be used to sift through text-based Calgary Arts Development data

There's a ton of information to go through and this weekend's Data for Good and Calgary Arts Development datathon will attempt to find some answers for Calgary's arts community. PIXNIO

Arts and data collide this weekend as Data for Good and Calgary Arts Development will partner up to deliver arts answers among mounds of collected information.

It’s the fifth major datathon put on by Data for Good Calgary, a volunteer group of city data analysis experts who pool together their skills to help Calgary non-profits and other social agencies to sift through data.

Organizer Geoff Zakaib with Data for Good said this is a great opportunity for data analysts and technicians to dive into a world some in their field are unfamiliar with – the arts.

“These groups typically have a lot of data, but they just don’t have the skills and resources to really utilize it to enhance their impact in the community,” said Zakaib.

“It’s a great way for technical folks to engage in their communities in unique ways and give back some of their time and their energy and really help local organizations.”

Over the weekend, groups will form to sift through 40 datasets in six primary areas:

  • Alberta-Level Grant Data Analysis
  • City/Alberta Level Community Benefit
  • City Level Arts Sector Workforce
  • City Level Arts Non-Profit Organizations
  • Geo Spacial Mapping
  • City-Level Text Analysis

They’re expecting up to 140 data gurus to participate to answer questions on factors behind grants being awarded, relationship between arts programming and other community indicators and how arts organizations are explaining their public impact, along with other questions. They’re even including provincial and national data as well.

Gregory Burbidge, research and policy specialist with Calgary Arts Development, said they’ve been trying to increase their capacity to gather and analyze data on the city’s arts community since about 2013, having hired research staff to do so.

“The Data for Good team is playing in a different league when it comes to data science and data sets,” Burbidge said.

“We don’t have the knowledge to fully unlock the datasets that we have.”

Burbidge said one of the things he’s most looking forward to is seeing how arts and the community impact have changed in Calgary over a given time period.

Aside from typical analytics, the groups will also be using geo-spatial analysis. One thing Burbidge says is unique to arts is that data or feedback is heavily text-based or language-based and it’s tough to measure. In this datathon, though, they’ll be using natural language analysis to help create a somewhat tangible outcome from the information.

“Some of the richest information we get back in our grant applications, it’s great to know how many people attended something, or the geographic location of something… there’s so much richness in asking people, ‘What was the most transformational experience you’ve had?’ or ‘What did you learn most from this project?’ – it’s hard to measure text,” Burbidge said.

They hope to make the data public and use it to do things like help frame the grant process, or in how they help artists think about grant questions, but also to dig into whether or not the arts are reaching all Calgarians.

Zakaib said they’ll be working alongside the team from Calgary Arts Development this weekend, as they have been for the past few months, putting context together with the anonymized data. He said it’s a great exchange between two different worlds.

“The learning and insights go both ways,” he said.

For more information visit: https://calgaryartsdevelopment.com/announcements/datathon-2018/

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About Darren Krause 148 Articles
Journalist, husband, father, golfer, writer, painter, video gamer, gardener, amateur botanist, dreamer, realist... never in that order.

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