Code, Data Literacy, Data Visualization, Media Innovation

DataBasic is a suite of four focused and simple tools and activities for journalists, artists, policy-makers, community advocacy groups and non-profit staff.  Rahul Bhargava and I received funding from the Knight Foundation to build and test DataBasic.

Though there are numerous data analysis and visualization tools for novices there are some significant gaps that we have identified through prior research. DataBasic is designed to fill these gaps for people who do not know how to code and provide a low barrier to further learning about data analysis for storytelling.

Our four tools include:

  • WTFcsv: A web application that takes as input a CSV file and returns a summary of the fields, their data type, their range, and basic descriptive statistics. This is a prettier version of R’s “summary” command and aids at the outset of the data analysis process.
  • WordCounter: A basic word counting tool that takes unstructured text as input and returns word frequency, bigrams (two-word phrases) and trigrams (three-word phrases)
  • SameDiff: A tool that gives you various ways to compare two text documents, to see how they are similar and/or different.
  • Connect the Dots: Introduces the basics of network analysis for analyzing social media or any data that consists of nodes (things) and edges (relationships between things).

We provide an introductory video and simple training activities for each tool as a way to scaffold learning about data analysis at the same time as doing it. These activities include fun datasets like UFO sightings and music lyrics to start off with, and introduce vocabulary terms and the algorithms at work behind the scenes.  We strongly believe in building tools for learners, and will be putting those ideas into practice on these tools and activities.

DataBasic comes in English, Portuguese and Spanish. It’s free and open source –

Research papers about DataBasic:

D’Ignazio, C., & Bhargava, R. (2016). DataBasic: Design Principles, Tools and Activities for Data Literacy Learners. The Journal Of Community Informatics, 12(3). 

D’Ignazio, C., Bhargava, R.  Approaches to Building Big Data Literacy. Presented at and published in the workshop proceedings of the Bloomberg Data for Good Exchange 2015.

Bhargava, R., D’Ignazio, C. Designing Tools and Activities for Data Literacy Learners. Published for the Data Literacy Workshop for WebSci 2015.