Data Canvas

Data Canvas is a media network that promotes public education around civic issues.
Photo by Myleen Hollero for swissnex SF

Data Canvas

Data Canvas is a partnership between swissnex San Francisco, Gray Area, and Lift Conference.

The first edition of Data Canvas was launched as an international online challenge in 2013 to create innovative visualizations by using public transportation data sets from the cities of San Francisco, Zurich and Geneva, with the goal of strengthening the global open data movement, and engaging governments and citizens around urban questions using data.

In 2014, we developed Data Canvas into a media network, both online and offline, that promotes public education around civic issues using data. Our research around public private initiatives in using data resulted in events, data visualization challenges, and workshops with partners around the world.

Sense Your City

As the first project in Data Canvas, we activated 100 people in seven cities (San Francisco, Geneva, Shanghai, Rio de Janeiro, Bangalore, Singapore, and Boston) to build their own DIY environmental sensors and measure air quality, noise, pollution, light and temperature in. Sensor hosts became part of a global environmental awareness initiative, and data was streamed online for three-months for everybody to access, learn from, and used to create visualizations.

On February 6, 2015, we opened the data streams from all 100 sensors, and launched the second Data Canvas visualization challenge. Mashups with existing open datasets were encouraged – the more creative, the better! Maker, Hacker-Community Spaces, Universities, Art schools, and urban innovators all came on board.

The winners of the Data Art Challenge had the chance to exhibit and tour their work, and contribute to the conversations around citizen science and open data.


Gray Area  Transparent-Image lift
Gray Area Art & Technology is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. Gray Area’s mission is to apply art and technology to create positive social impact through education, civic engagement, and public programs. Gray Area tests and scales projects with high impact potential, teaches digital tools to support artists and technologies, and inspires the community by promoting meaningful new work. In a single month, Gray Area produces a dozen events including artistic performances, classes, meet ups, film screenings, panel discussions and local community meetings regarding pressing issues. Lift explores the business and social implications of technological innovation through international event series and open innovation programs in Europe and Asia. By gathering observers, explorers and builders from around the world, Lift is a key partner for organizations and individuals wishing to identify the current challenges and creative solutions presented by emerging technologies. Lift has created a community and project portfolio contributing to and benefiting from the knowledge and contacts created through events, welcoming over 15,000 participants from over 40 countries since 2006.