Data & Visual Literacy and the COVID-19 Infodemic

This post was contributed by Map & Spatial Data Librarian Theresa Quill.

Scholarly and scientific information is distributed in a variety of ways.  The COVID19 pandemic has spurred a large volume of scholarly literature, but also data sharing and data visualization to track the spread of this coronavirus and the impact of efforts to combat it. Some of this information is reliable and some of it is not.

Visual Literacy and Resources Librarian Jackie Fleming and Map & Spatial Data Librarian Theresa Quill were recently published in Digital Culture and Education, discussing their efforts to combat the COVID-19 infodemic.

It is not an exaggeration to say that the evolving situation surrounding COVID-19 is changing the world. This change includes the response and mission of academic libraries. Information about COVID-19 is being published every day in both textual and visual formats. One thing that all of this information has in common is that it is easily accessible to the public. As academic librarians, we believe that it is our job to guide our community to reliable information and teach them how to receive and interpret this information.

The democratization of data visualization and mapping tools over the past decade has meant that creating and sharing visualizations is no longer limited to the realm of experts. While this trend has been overall beneficial, it has also resulted in increased visibility for (mostly unintentionally) misleading or confusing maps and charts and places a greater burden of critically reading and evaluating visualizations on the reader.

The authors say –

“As the Map & Spatial Data Librarian and, Visual Literacy and Resources Librarian at Indiana University-Bloomington, we believed that it was our responsibility to address the surge of visual information being produced daily about COVID-19 cases. We decided that the best action to take was to create a Visual Literacy & Map LibGuide that specifically addressed data visualizations tracking COVID-19 cases. This guide lists reliable data visualizations to follow, tips for reading these visualizations, and general resources for spatial and visual literacy as well as, articles addressing COVID-19 data visualizations. Because COVID-19 is a rapidly evolving situation, we have been periodically adding information to this guide as we find it. We felt that creating this LibGuide was a good first step in developing our campus community’s visual literacy skills in the COVID-19 crisis.”

You can view the research guide here: https://guides.libraries.indiana.edu/visualliteracyandmaps

And the full article here: https://www.digitalcultureandeducation.com/reflections-on-covid19/visual-literacy-and-maps

 

Open Source Spatial Data Through the IU Libraries

This post was authored by Jordan Blekking, a Scholarly Communication graduate student and PhD student in the Department of Geography. 

For those searching for open source spatial data, the Government Information, Maps, and Microform Services (GIMMS) at the Herman B Wells Library can help. GIMMS provides access to a wide range of spatial datasets that provide an array of data from around the world. In particular, GIMMS provides access to two exceptional databases to meet your data needs: IndianaMap and the Big Ten Geoportal.

IndianaMap is the largest publicly available collection of spatial data for the state of Indiana. The data is made available through a collaboration between multiple federal, state, and local governments, organizations, and universities. The Indiana Geological Survey developed and maintains the data collection. Data from all 92 Indiana counties is available on IndianaMap.

IndianaMap tool
An example screenshot from the IndianaMap Map Viewer. The data shown is of the average family size (by US Census Blockgroups) for the entire state of Indiana.

Data layers are organized around eight general themes: Demographics, Environment, Geology, Government, Hydrology, Imagery, Infrastructure, and Reference. Examples of data are Census data cleaned and clipped to the state of Indiana, Wind Power Speed and Density, School districts, Elevation data, Political Boundaries, and much more. Data is available for download, as a Web Map Service (WMS), or viewable on the IndianaMap Map Viewer.

The Big Ten Geoportal provides access to geospatial data and resources selected and curated by librarians and geospatial specialists at twelve research institutions in the Big Ten Academic Alliance, including Indiana University Bloomington. The geoportal provides access to web services, digitized historical maps, and geospatial resources, including GIS datasets. Data available through the Big Ten Geoportal is wide ranging in its subject matter, as well as its geographic extent. The site contains an extensive collection of digitized maps, which would be especially helpful for historians or those with research interests related to history.

Big ten geoportal information
A list of Big Ten Geoportal participating universities and their placement within the region.

Each of these unique data sources allow users the opportunity to spatially integrate data in order to answer questions like: “What types of demographic changes have happened in Indianapolis over the last twenty years?” and “Where should a new grocery store be established?”

Find more open spatial data on our library guide: guides.libraries.indiana.edu/GIS

Easily transmit data, video, and large files to IUScholarWorks

If you produce large datasets, create video or images, develop software or custom virtual machines, or rely on large packages of files and data in your research, we are pleased to introduce you to a new wiki-based widget for transmitting your work to our repository team.

Image: Screenshot of IUScholarWorks Box upload area
URL: https://wiki.dlib.indiana.edu/x/swRNHw

With true drag and drop functionality, the widget allows users to transmit files of almost any size, from a 500 MB .mp4 video to a 10+ GB bundled virtual machine. All material dropped on the window or uploaded by browsing to a file on your machine will be synced to a dedicated Box folder owned by the Scholarly Communications Department. From there, our staff can ensure your material is placed in the appropriate preservation environment and mapped correctly to one or more IUScholarWorks records.

The tool gives IU researchers an accessible and straightforward method for transmitting material for deposit. It will be useful for the deposit of big datasets as well as files that merely exceed the 25-50 MB limit imposed on email attachments. Even for those who prefer to self-submit their own datasets, the simplicity of the tool makes the process of pushing data files to the Scholarly Data Archive less demanding. This is especially true if you are dealing with transmitting multiple small files. Compressing and/or packaging them as a zip or tar file will enable a smoother upload.

For any questions about using this tool or to let us know what you’ve uploaded, contact us at iusw @ indiana (dot) edu.