The General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) [3] that will come into force in May 2018 will require that informed consent is obtained.  In my opinion in able to give informed consent, users need to understand how their data will be used and the implications of data sharing.  This is important for my work in learning analytics, but is also important for students personally and as researchers (Connected Curriculum).

The politics around data usage and sharing a quite complicated, and could be seen as quite dry as a topic, I therefore thought that a game would be a fun and interesting way to introduce the topic. I thought it would also give some scope for discussion of issues as they were raised.

Datopolis is an open source boardgame created by the Open Data Institute (ODI). The components and rules for which are available via GitHub:

This was developed at Open Data Camp 3 in 2016, for more information please see:

The aim of the game is to introduce players to explain the principles of open data and how they can be put to work.  The game requires the players to negotiate access to data sets that other players may hold to create tools.  Points are accrued through the creation of tools.

Datopolis & #LearnHack 3.0

#LearnHack 3.0 took place at Base KX from 20th to 22nd January 2017.  In addition to being involved in the organisation of the event, I had also proposed a theme for the hackathon and offered to deliver a workshop.

Data, data, everywhere, but should we share?

Description of workshop for event website:

Data is all around us and can be used in a variety of forms.
In this interactive session you will explore different types of data, 
understand how data can be used in a social context and constraints on 
data use through the playing of the Open Data Board Game.

Why play a game?

Board games can be used to facilitate active learning.  The use of board games to deliver or reinforce learning has been discussed in the the health care industry, it has been noted by some researchers that gaming is “very effective as a teaching strategy for topics for that are mandatory, highly technical, or considered by the learner to be boring” [1].

As the usage and ownership of data could be perceived as a boring governance topic, I felt that the ODI’s game could introduce the key concepts in a fun and interesting way.

Why this topic?

Data is constantly collected, aggregated and analysed about all of us on a daily basis.  With pending changes to data protection legislation, my support of the ‘open’ agenda and the work I am currently undertaking to explore learning analytics I believed it was important that students had an understanding of some of the politics of data and it can or cannot be used for social good.

Areas of activity: A1, A2, A4, K2 & V4


Photo of event feedback sheet showing workshop as a highlight

The game took significantly longer to prepare than I anticipated as there were a large  number of counters that need to be printed and cut-out.  As the game is still under-development there was some discrepancies in the images used to represent the same topics across the different counters.  Also the poker chips that I had bought to use as ownership markers were a little large and had to be placed under the data tiles for them to be seen. In future I would use smaller counters.

Due to the length of the workshop session I decided that the short version of the game should be played.  This still enabled the participants to negotiate with each other over the use of data but did not include the constraints that are incorporated in the full version of the game.

Overall the participants enjoyed the game, and some commented on not having previously realised how complex data usage could be and the kinds of discussion involved.

If I had the opportunity to do the session again, I would ask for a longer session and play the full-length version of the game.

The main audience at LearnHack was students but think it would also be of benefit to play  with colleagues in ISD and others across UCL to improve understanding of data politics and especially those of open data.


[1] J.M. Henry, Gaming: a teaching strategy to enhance adult learning, J Contin Educ Nurs, 28 (1997), pp. 231–234

[2] Jirasevijinda, Thanakorn ; Brown, Lauren C, Jeopardy! ©: An innovative approach to teach psychosocial aspects of pediatrics, Patient Education and Counseling, 2010, Vol.80(3), pp.333-336 [Peer Reviewed Journal]