The data visualisation know-how project is a research project, launched in June 2018.
It aims to understand more about how we learn to work with charts and graphs – data visualisations (datavis) – in the course of our jobs. At the same time, it also aims to make sure that everyone who takes part benefits from their involvement. In this case that will be through acquiring some datavis know-how.
You can find definitions of words like ‘datavis’ and ‘know-how’ on the key terms page.
The datavis know-how project has been set up by me, Lulu Pinney. I am a Digital Society PhD researcher at the University of Sheffield in the UK. I am also a datavis trainer.
Before becoming a researcher, I was a datavis designer for more than 10 years.
Phase 1: Free datavis surgeries
The project has two phases. Firstly, I ran a series of free datavis surgeries in June and July 2018. They were designed around, and attended by, people who work in the local social action sector and who have to deal with datavis at work. The aim of the surgeries was to boost the confidence of people who are new to datavis.
Phase 2: Action research
The second phase – starting in Autumn 2018 – involves ‘action research’. This is research carried out by a team of people who are impacted by the issues being researched. In this way, the research that they design and undertake should lead to change that is relevant and useful for them.
In practice, the action research teams will be made up of me working alongside a small team in a handful of organisations. Each team will decide on a specific question that we want to answer (the research). Then we will look for the answer by trying ideas out in practice (the action), taking time to reflect on what we learn along the way. Everyone involved stands to learn from both the process as well as any answer we get to.
The idea for using action research in this project is that together we will explore the value of data, and its visualisation, to the individuals and organisations involved. And then act on what we find. For example, this could be to explore new uses of existing data, and then develop some resources on datavis best practice, such as templates or guidelines or training, for ongoing use internally. Or it could be to create some datavis for a specific report, event, bid or campaign.
In the process, the team will draw on their combined strengths as well as working out how best to access any additional skills and knowledge needed. I bring with me my background as a data visualisation designer and trainer, experience that I hope we will be able to use during the project.
For this action research phase, I am looking to collaborate with a couple of organisations. Once again, I am interested in working with social action organisations in Sheffield. I imagine this might involve identifying a small team within the organisation. And then to meet regularly over a period of about 3 to 6 months to plan and deliver our project.
If this is something you would be interested in finding out more about, please get in touch.
The PhD network
This project is part of a network of three PhDs, all concerned with how we relate to data through visualisation: