Code, Data Literacy, Data Visualization, Media Innovation

Data literacy and data science for civic action. is a set of four online & mobile software tools and learning activities to introduce data science to youth, adult residents and civic professionals. It’s free and open source – They introduce newcomers to exploratory data analysis, quantitative text analysis and network analysis. The tools are free, open source, and available in 5 languages.

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.

A companion project, the Data Culture Project, provides more than fifteen learning activities for nonprofit and community-based organizations to use the tools to build their data culture–or their collective ability to think creatively and ethically about ways to integrate data collection and analysis into their work.

Principal Investigators, Co-Founders

Catherine D’Ignazio and Rahul Bhargava


  • The Data Culture Lab @ Northeastern University
  • Emerson College Engagement Lab
  • MIT Center for Civic Media
  • DataCymru (Welsh translations)
  • Dokk1 (Danish translations)


Bhargava and I created by conducting co-design workshops with public information professionals such as librarians, journalists, community-based organizations and planners as well as graduate students in Civic Media. Their ideas and feedback informed the design of both the software-based tools and the learning activities.

The Data Culture Project builds on my ideas around creative data literacy and Bhargava’s ideas of popular data education. The learning activities invite civic professionals to engage with data in ways that are accessible, tactile, and fun. The project is especially designed for adult learners in mission-driven organizations such as nonprofits, municipal government and data journalism.

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).


Working with civil society partners like the Danish library Dokk1 and the Welsh public service organization DataCymru, has been translated into four languages.

We have run workshops for more than 750 individuals in journalism, municipal government, non-profit management, the arts, and education. averages 22K page-views per month, and it has been widely used in data science trainings and workshops.

The website offers four data literacy software tools, each paired with a learning activity.


  • Lee, Victor R., Daniel R. Pimentel, Rahul Bhargava, and Catherine D’Ignazio. “Taking data feminism to school: A synthesis and review of pre‐collegiate data science education projects.” British Journal of Educational Technology (2022).
  • Bhargava, R. & D’Ignazio, C. (2021). Teaching Data Journalism in a World of Tool and Tech Overload. In 13th ACM Web Science Conference 2021 (WebSci ’21 Companion). Southampton, United Kingdom.
  • “Imagining Future Designs of Tools for Youth Data Literacies”, Workshop at Connected Learning Summit, July 2021, Co-organizers: Regina Cheng, Stefania Druga, Emilia Gan, Catherine D’Ignazio, Rahul Bhargava, Victor Lee, Camillia Matuk, Tamara Clegg, Andee Rubin, Yasmin Kafai.
  • D’Ignazio, Catherine, and Rahul Bhargava. “Data Visualization Literacy: A Feminist Starting Point.” In Data Visualization in Society, edited by Martin Engebretsen and Helen Kennedy, 207–22. Amsterdam: University of Amsterdam Press, 2020.
  • D’Ignazio, Catherine. “Creative Data Literacy: Bridging the Gap between the Data-Haves and Data-Have Nots.” Information Design Journal 23, no. 1 (July 20, 2017): 6–18.
  • Bhargava, Rahul, Ricardo Kadouaki, Emily Bhargava, Guilherme Castro, and Catherine D’Ignazio. “Data Murals: Using the Arts to Build Data Literacy.” The Journal of Community Informatics 12, no. 3 (October 22, 2016): 197–216.D’Ignazio, Catherine, and Rahul Bhargava. “DataBasic: Design Principles, Tools and Activities for Data Literacy Learners.” The Journal of Community Informatics 12, no. 3 (August 10, 2016): 83–107.
  • Bhargava, Rahul, and Catherine D’Ignazio. “Data Sculptures as a Playful and Low-Tech Introduction to Working with Data.” In Pedagogy & Physicalization Workshop at Designing Interactive Systems (DIS) Conference 2017, 2017.
  • D’Ignazio, Catherine, and Rahul Bhargava. “Approaches to Building Big Data Literacy.” In Bloomberg Data for Good Exchange 2015, 6, 2015.

Media References

  • Allen, Tania. Solving Critical Design Problems: Theory and Practice. 1st ed. New York: Routledge, 2019. https://
  • “Using DataBasic for Simple Data Analysis.” The Chronicle of Higher Education, Anastasia Salter, February 15, 2016.
  • “Suite of Data Tools for Beginners, Focused on Fun.” Flowing Data (blog), Nathan Yau, February 10, 2016.
  • “Analyse Text and CSVs Easily with DataBasic.Io.” Jessica Yung Blog (blog), Jessica Yung, October 2016.
  • “Cómo DataBasic Puede Ayudarte a Empezar Tu Storytelling.” Escuela de Datos Blog (blog), Raisa Valda Ampuero, July 19, 2016.“Dots Are People Too: Learnings from Information+.” Thinking Machines Data Science Blog, Mika Aldaba, July 12, 2016. https://stories.
  • “A New Program Wants to Help More People in News Orgs — beyond Journalists — Get Literate with Data.” Nieman Lab, Ricardo Bilton, July 26, 2017.
  • “Creative Data Storytelling with Catherine D’Ignazio.” Storify, J. Shook, February 17, 2017.
  • “Emerson Faculty Member Working to Bring Data Literacy to Nonprofits.” Emerson Today, Staff, January 30, 2017.



  • Knight Foundation
  • Shuttleworth Foundation
  • Emerson College Faculty Advancement Fund Award
  • Stanford Digital Civil Society Lab