This We Know is a new website with a mission to aggregate and provide access to all publicly available information in one place. It’s using data released on the government website Data.gov, allowing users to query the information for any U.S. location. For example, when searching for 94110 (San Francisco, CA), I see instantly that there are 10 factories within 7 miles, that 109,565 residents are Hispanic as compared to 385,325 whites, and that there are almost twice as many renters as home owners in San Francisco. At first glance, I find it incredibly interesting and imagine it to be immensely useful. Imagine what will happen with this new transparency! The citizenry will respond with outrage that they could be subject to so many pollutants and hold industry accountable for global warming and carcinogens! But then I opened another Chrome tab and navigated away.
I am not denying the benefits of universal data access (especially in as nice and easy-to-read format as with This We Know), however it brings up the more important question of impact. People have access to all sorts of beneficial things (healthy food, bicycles, books) and yet so many of us choose the alternatives (fast food, fossil fuel powered cars, mass media). How to we translate access into impact? I pose this question to you.