Panel Session 5: Democratising datavis
Cultural Mapping Data Visualisation in Britain: For Whom and For What?
David Lee, University of Leeds, and Caroline Chapain, University of Birmingham
Cultural mapping remains a persistent feature of British cultural policy evidence-gathering, and continues to play a central role in justifications for investment into the arts and creative industries. From the early cartographic work of Patrick Geddes who sought to map culture as a ‘way of life’ to the mapping exercises initiated by the New Labour government such as the Creative Industries Economic Estimates , the CASE Programme or the Staying Ahead report, mapping remains prevalent. More recently there have been a number of influential attempts to visualise the ‘digital economy’ using ‘big data’ sources such as social media interactions, online business databases, and data based on cultural participation. New modes of data visualisation are central to the new forms of cultural mapping, yet they are being undertaken in a policy space which privileges technology sectors and economic growth over local production and ‘offline’ creativity. To be ‘mapped’ in today’s cultural economy often means engaging explicitly with highly commodified forms of communication within ‘high-growth’ urban clusters. Moreover, the specialised modes of expertise required to undertake many of the new methods make them out of reach of, for example, local authorities seeking evidence on which to base cases for cultural regeneration. This paper provides a critical commentary on existing cultural mapping visualisation practices using ‘big data’, and reflects on how and why things have changed and are changing across this field. It asks what the implications of this might be for the creative and cultural industries as well as culture more generally?
Networks and Charts: User and Advertiser Visualisations of Social Media
Elizabeth Van Couvering, University of Karlstad
Within the tradition of studies of audience representations (e.g., Ang 1991, Ettema & Whitney 1994; Bermejo 2007; Napoli 2011; Buzzard 2012) it is well established that “audiences” are discursive constructions, used to reduce uncertainty and increase predictability in the media market. These media audience discourses are supported by both institutional and technological structures. However, recently audience measurement and visualisation tools have become available not just to institutions but also to individuals, whether acting in a private or a micro-business capacity (Baym, 2013). This paper compares visualisations of data about users available within standard social media advertising tools to visualisations available to ordinary users. It sets these visualisations in an historical context of personal, professional, and scientific visualisations of social relations, on the one hand, and of audiences, on the other hand. It examines the elements present in the different visualisations, the parameters of those elements, and the overall effect and connotation of the visualisations. A critical perspective on the presence and absence of different types of data and their presentation is related to institutionally-supported discursive constructions of social networks and of audiences. The results are linked to concerns about privacy and surveillance that, in part, emerge from different social expectations linked to these different discourses.
The Politics of Info-GIF-ics: Animated Maps and Graphs on Everyday Social Media
Tim Highfield, Queensland University of Technology
This paper examines the rise of infographics and data visualization presented for popular consumption as animated GIFs: short looping sequences of images that can be embedded into tweets, statuses, and blog posts across the social Web. Animated GIFs offer great potential for highlighting key aspects of the information depicted, such as patterns over time or geographic distribution. The support for the format on popular social media platforms has led mainstream media and government accounts to employ the GIF as a means for presenting information in a way that is relevant and appropriate for the platforms and audiences in question. However, with this trend of info-GIF-ics come questions about the politics, and cultures, of the form, as information gets distilled to one or two key elements which can clearly highlight an argument but which also may be overly reductive or obscure in appealing to everyday social media content and cultures.
Changing the World with Data Visualisation … For the Worse? Assessing Data Visualisations in the Abortion Debate
Rosemary Lucy Hill, University of Leeds
Data visualisations are argued to have the power to change the world, as they provide accessibility to data, thereby making decisions more rational (Kosara et al., 2009; Few, 2008). This assertion relies upon the common-sense perception of visualisations as windows onto objective data, implicit in which is the ideal that data visualisations can counter non-factual media messages or providing an affective experience. But notions of what counts as ‘good’ are subjective, and just as all of these elements of a visualisation can be harnessed for good, so can they be harnessed to do very bad things. This paper will consider the discourse of data visualisations’ power to ‘do good’ (Periscopic, 2014) within the context of the highly contested abortion debate. It will report on the early stages of the Persuasive Data project which investigates abortion-related visualisations’ persuasive capabilities against the backdrop of political, religious and moral ideologies. It will ask, how are data visualisations being used to persuade people within the abortion debate? And how should we judge which are the ‘bad’ kind of visualisations when so much is at stake?