Community Indicators for Your Community

Real, lasting community change is built around knowing where you are, where you want to be, and whether your efforts are making a difference. Indicators are a necessary ingredient for sustainable change. And the process of selecting community indicators -- who chooses, how they choose, what they choose -- is as important as the data you select.

This is an archive of thoughts I had about indicators and the community indicators movement. Some of the thinking is outdated, and many of the links may have broken over time.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Music, Literature, and College Performance

Sometimes we bring up creative indicators that strike our fancy for their unusual use of data to tell an interesting story. This isn't necessarily to suggest that these measures would be great community indicators -- we're not going to add "boxers or briefs" to our community survey any time soon -- but the way in which these measures are constructed can maybe set us thinking about how else we could measure key trends in our own communities outside of the more standard data sets.

The following data set provides that kind of out-of-the-milk-crate thinking. In Music That Makes You Dumb, Virgil Griffith at CalTech examined Facebook data to see what music college students were listening to. In Books That Make You Dumb, he did the same thing (but with books, not music.) (You probably figured that one out without me.)

He took Facebook network stats from 1,352 schools and the top music/books that their students listed as their favorites, and then mashed that data up with average SAT/ACT scores fro those schools, to get a correlation between music or book choices and IQ. (Yes, it's correlation and not causation. He says that a number of times.)

But check out the results -- you can look up your own school and see what the favorites are and how they rank, or you can look up you favorite music/books and see where they are.

Any way you slice it, it's an interesting data set. And you might see a book or a musical group you may want to try out.

Increased smartness or improved SAT scores not guaranteed.


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