Data nerds take notice: How would you portray rural Minnesota?

When you want to measure something in Minnesota and show it on a map, chances are pretty good you’ll wind up with a kind of bulls eye in the Twin Cities and shades of variation through the rural part of the state.

Here are a couple maps, for example, that we included in our recent eBook “Fighting for an American Countryside” to show median household income and the percentage of young people who have college degrees.

Source: Minnesota demographer’s office

Here’s a chance for you to do better.

The Minnesota Data Opener, a project of the Minnesota Demographer’s Office, is calling on all data nerds, artists, students, policy wonks and concerned citizens to submit a visual entry (chart, video, photo, web application, or data visualization) that helps Minnesotans understand a problem or challenge for rural Minnesota.

When it comes to rural Minnesota, many see a decline, while others see a period of rural change coming with many positives. The challenge for the 2013 Data Opener is to go beyond lamentations and wishful thinking to ask ourselves “What can data tell us about our changing rural landscape?”

We’re using MPR News’ Public Insight Network to encourage participation, and Jennifer Vogel, the Ground Level reporter who wrote “Fighting for an American Countryside,” is one of the judges.

University of Minnesota extension sociologist Ben Winchester wrote a good survey of rural Minnesota demography early this year, which you can find at the Data Opener site. Take a look at that and other resources you can find at the Data Opener and then have at it. The deadline for submissions is Oct. 14.