The College of Arts, Media and Design and Communication Studies assistant professor Ryan Ellis and his colleagues were recently awarded grants from Ford and Sloan, and the National Science Foundation. The two grants will support their newly-launched research initiative, the COVID Data Builders project. Working alongside Amelia Acker from the University of Texas at Austin and Megan Finn from the University of Washington, the team plans to examine the rapid proliferation of online COVID-19 tracking dashboards. The 12-month study also includes collaborators: Stacey Wedlake from the University of Washington, and Bidisha Chaudhuri and Janaki Srinivasan from the International Institute of Information Technology, Bangalore.
What are COVID dashboards?
In early 2020, everyone stumbled trying to learn the new moves. Government officials and the public alike got tangled up searching for answers. Information regarding the novel coronavirus was incomplete, scattered, and often conflicting. Just like their “real world” counterparts, the open-source community came together in an attempt to organize the chaos. Instead of fundraisers and food drives, their emergency response took the form of COVID-19 dashboards.
Spun up under immense pressure by a loose network of volunteers and paid staffers, these landing pages became information lifelines. Infection-rate tallies, easily legible infographics, and interactive maps streamlined a wave of data, bringing much-needed order to the pandemic experience.