Imagine that data about Medicare costs or the pileup of national debt could be as cool and compelling as an iPhone app or a killer interactive graphic on ESPN.com. Would more people pay attention? Would it change the debate? Would we make better decisions?
"I'd love to do a project making government activity a spectator sport," says Lisa Strausfeld, late one summer afternoon in the Manhattan offices of Pentagram, where she's a partner specializing in information-focused design. "If we could be as obsessive with government data as we are with baseball stats, maybe it would change the form of democracy."
A wisp of a woman with a soft, tentative way of speaking, Strausfeld hardly fits the image of a wrangler capable of taming beastly chunks of data. But in fact she has an extraordinary capacity for structuring and displaying information. "She's a natural to work on transforming the infinite depths of data about our urban environment into patterns that reveal other patterns," says TED founder Richard Saul Wurman, who got to know Strausfeld during her days at the MIT Media Lab. "She'd be on my chart of the top information architects. She'll be a formidable figure."