In the post-truth society we live in, experts must find novel ways to bring hard, factual data to citizens. Data must entertain as well as inform, and excite as well as educate. It must be built with sharing through social channels in mind and become part of our everyday activities and interactions with others. Data Stories will look at novel frameworks and technologies for bringing data to people through art, games, and storytelling. It will examine the impact that varying levels of localisation, topicalisation, participation, and shareability have on the engagement of the general public with factual evidence substantiated by different forms of digital content derived and repurposed from a variety of sources. It will deliver the tools and guidance that community and civic groups need to achieve broader participation and support for their initiatives at local and national level, and empower artists, designers, statisticians, analysts, and journalists to communicate with data in inspiring, informative ways.
Our research hypotheses are as follows:
1. People engage more with data that is made relevant to them by localisation (data related to a specific geographic or geopolitical area of interest) and topicalisation (data about a particular entity, theme, or event).
2. People engage more with data and understand it better when said data is provided through interactive and participatory methods that help build a coherent narrative.
3. Data is more likely to be shared, and therefore reach more people, if shareability is built into its presentation.
We will test these hypotheses and propose a data experience framework supported by models, algorithms, tools, and guidelines that help individuals and groups in creating bespoke, participatory content (for example, art, games, and stories, from data). The framework design will be informed by practice-led research in three main areas: (i) finding and enriching data; (ii) generating content; and (iii) sharing and engaging with content. It will draw upon methods from several disciplines: data and content management; machine learning; human data interaction; game design and gamification; crowdsourcing; online communities; social and political sciences; creative writing; and visual arts. The research will be prototypically showcased in four contexts: (i) within the Data as Culture programme at the ODI, working together with artists, designers, and open data activists; (ii) as part of the Datapolis project run by the ODI, which looks at the use of game interfaces to demystify data, with the support of game designers and local communities; (iii) in a fact-checking & journalism showcase together with the BBC, Full Fact, and the Parliament Digital Service; and (iv) via datathons and our own Data Stories challenge, run by WSI and the ODI, alongside initiatives such as Bath:Hacked and ODCamp UK, which will build community-relevant data narratives from open data enriched with other media, using creative writing techniques.
Our proposal is well aligned with the EPSRC call, addressing several themes to varying degrees. The majority of the research is focused on enabling and facilitating content creation. Specifically, we look at providing intelligent tools to make it easier for people to create data experiences. The beneficiaries are artists, storytellers (such as journalists or analysts), game makers, and those in community and civil society groups wishing to use the modes of art, games, and narration to raise broader awareness of their work. The research will include using data to create immersive experiences through art, games and virtual reality environments that are built from structured data alongside other forms of digital content. Ultimately, these novel ways to get to know and interact with data, relevant to one's context and presented creatively and innovatively, will inform and educate the public, leading, to more sustainable digital ecosystems, and to a more inclusive society.