The data informed initiative


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Willem Deisinger, Devansh Shah, Jennifer Macklem

The Data Informed Initiative by Global Affairs Canada (GAC) is exploring how open data can be communicated in creative and inspiring ways. The initiative aims to show how data can be used to create something beautiful, and foster dialogue and innovation.

To create the initiative's first project, a data-driven textile art piece, GAC brought together Jennifer Macklem, an Associate Professor in the Department of Visual Arts; Willem Deisinger, an Honours BA student in Philosophy and Fine Arts; and Devansh Shah, a BASc student in Mechanical Engineering. All are from the University of Ottawa.

GAC provided the team with three different datasets on their international outreach programs. Being inspired by the vast number of countries involved in the programs, the artists used common textiles and prints from each country to create their artwork. The textiles created a celebratory display of artistic heritage and cultural identity. Icons of hands were also used to represent the program volunteers, and the idea of giving, receiving, and exchanging.

Their final piece is a visualization that showcases three of GAC’s programs: the Volunteer Cooperation Program, the International Youth Internship Program and the International Aboriginal Youth Internships initiative.

The artists have hopes that it may even be shown overseas to represent Global Affairs Canada.


Allowing artists to collaborate with open data and interpret it in a creative, visual format can lead to new ways of creating social and educational impacts.

The art piece helps the public recognize GAC’s involvement in humanitarian efforts around the world.  It also creates better understanding and trust towards the programs and the people who are behind them.


“The project is really about building excitement around data culture and exploring new ways of sharing the work we do. There are many studies that show that people retain information much more quickly when there is an appeal to our human side: to emotions, to beauty, to the human experience. This is exactly the bridge that we’re exploring with this initiative: the fact-based, data-driven, rational approach with one that’s more artistic, more beautiful, and more inspirational.”

- Robert Hawara, director of the Data and Analytics Program and lead for The Data Informed Initiative at GAC

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