Relating to Data through Visualisation: PhD Network

Relating To Data: understanding data through visualisation is a network of three funded PhD studentships which focuses on how people relate to data through their visualisation, the narratives and meanings people attach to visualisations and the potential understanding produced by them. It is funded by the ESRC (Economic and Social Research Council)’s White Rose Doctoral Training Centre (WRDTC).

Because data are proliferating, acquiring new powers and playing an increasingly important role in society, and because the main way that people get access to data is through visualisations, greater understanding is needed about:

  • Whether visualisations are effective in communicating data,
  • How engagement can be evaluated given the diversity of purpose, context and audience,
  • Whether effectiveness measures can be automated and digitised,
  • How and whether visualisation design can be more user-centred
  • What skills people need to make sense of visualisations and relate to data through them.

Researching these questions is vital in order to develop greater understanding of how non-experts can engage with data and so participate in data-driven social, cultural and civic life. The Network explores whether and how visualisations: make data accessible; shape understandings; might advance critical appreciations of complex phenomena. It aims to advance conceptual understanding of the social role of visualisation, engaging with contemporary debates about data and empowerment, the politics of data and issues of transparency and visibility in and through visualisation. As such it will contribute to the emergent field of critical data studies, which understands data and their visualisation as actors in unequal data societies. It aims to produce freely available resources for professional data visualisers, social scientists keen to use visualisation to make their research data accessible (thus advancing social science) and the general public.

Staff at the Universities of Leeds, Sheffield and York (with expertise in data visualisation, big data/data power and user-centred digital design) supervise the PhD candidates, with one candidate being located at each of the three universities. The Network brings students and supervisors together with two world-leading and award-winning data visualisation agencies, Clever-Franke and Visualising Data. Click on the Network Team link to find out more about us – students, supervisors and partners.