Project 2: Engaging diverse users in visualisation production and evaluation

This project aims to explore the extent to which diverse users can be engaged in visualisation production and evaluation processes and whether this contributes to visualisations’ capacity to enhance users’ understanding of data. There is currently very little understanding of whether visualisations enhance understanding of data for users and of visualisation users in general. User studies which have been carried out to date are narrow, focusing on specific issues (colour use, grouping of elements (Einsfield et al 2009; Haroz and Whitney 2012), speed of comprehension or quick accomplishment of tasks (Borkin et al 2013, Chin et al 2009)). It is also novel in that it will take forward in a new direction findings from the recent Seeing Data project (, specifically in relation to the socio-cultural factors and differences amongst users that affect engagements with data visualisation.

On this project, the student will build on problematisations of concepts such as ‘universal design’ and ‘average user’ which have emerged from fields like disability studies (Goggin and Newell 2007) and Science and Technology Studies (Oodshourn et al 2004) and on media studies understandings about how factors like gender, race, class, sexuality and age affect engagements with media products (Hall 1973). The student will explore whether general principles for user engagement can be developed in the face of user diversity and difference. S/he will experiment with inventive methods for involving users in visualisation design and evaluation, such as using techniques from information experience design like empathy mapping ( The student will work closely with staff at Clever Franke on this project, spending two periods of fieldwork with them, doing participant observation, carrying out interviews with staff, clients and target users and collaborating in workshops on user engagement, in an iterative design model. The project will produce blueprints for user engagement which are attentive to difference and diversity.

The main objective is to explore the possibility of user engagement in data visualisation production which is attentive to socio-cultural factors and individual differences. Subsidiary objectives are:

  • To develop new knowledge about user engagement with visualisations and their design;
  • To develop knowledge about how users understand data communicated through visualisations;
  • To contribute to user-centred visualisation design practice, user evaluation and testing;
  • To make a contribution to the emergent field of critical data studies, particularly with regard to data visualisation.