Coursework, notes, and progress while attending NYU's Interactive Telecommunications Program (ITP)

Designing a data collection form

For this week’s assignment I designed a form to collect data on people’s sense of personal control, their political leanings, and their faith in institutions. The idea occurred to me as I reflected on Ethan Zuckerman’s talk at ITP where he introduced us to an institutionalist vs. anti-institutionalist schema and discussed how to bring about change in a socio-political climate dominated by this dichotomy. He has also written a related blog post.

I started to wonder how or whether people’s beliefs about how much control they have over their lives related to their belief that they could enact broader change, and whether they desired or expected to do so. One of Zuckerman’s points is that in the U.S., our collective trust in institutions has been declining for decades, and I wondered if people’s place on these spectrums is related to their perceived ability to affect them.

Creating reliable survey items is a complicated process, so I thought I should use questions that came from vetted and tested sources to the extent possible. I used several locus of control questions to understand the extent to which respondents believe individuals can control events that affect them versus being externally controlled, as well as some of the Gallup panel questions on trust in institutions, and a question on political ideology from Survey Monkey’s question bank.

The next step would be testing!

For my future reference (and perhaps others) I’m going to start maintaining lists of tools to create surveys, or forms to collect data, and good sources of open data on the web.

Survey tools

  • Kobotoolbox
    • I don’t know how this is used in the field but for my purposes I felt some functionality was lacking–there is no way to introduce your survey, you can’t duplicate the form for different iterations or changes over time (although you can download and re-upload), and deploying and re-deploying causes errors. Kobotoolbox doesn’t even number your questions. There is a responsive team to answer questions, though, and it seems like some of these issues are pending resolutions shortly.
  • Survey Monkey 
    • Survey Monkey has much more robust functionality. I like how they suggest question phrasing based on keywords entered, where there is a reliable way to ask a question on a specific topic. You can also pick questions from their question bank. Unfortunately, you need 10 or fewer questions to send their surveys for free!
  • Open Data Kit
    • Haven’t tried but seems good for mobile!

Places with open (quantitative) data

Institutional data

Good to know: Global Data Initiative

At NYU: NYU data services

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