June 23, 2009
DD4D Conference report
Last week I was at DD4D, the Data Designed for Decisions, held in Paris. It was a really nice meeting with great ideas for statisticians and information designers. Here there is a summary of its contents.
The conference aimed to offer different approaches concerning statistics and information design and which are their role in our society as knowledge transfers. The bottom-up approach to politics is growing and “community” is an important key-word. Usual statistics “neutralizes” the person. The new mission is bringing back people to the centre of the data, its the “societistics age”.
The most important messages from the conference
As a general message, information must be given in the most clear and organized way. It is also increasing the data free access in which bottom-up analysis are raising and generating important messages to the society.
Data and information are presented in deeper analysis than only numerical references. Immersion into subjects matters and making data more familiar is crucial. “Sense making” is a guideline. Another challenge is making the society more concerned and engaged about statistical numbers. Designing persuasive information so people can realize the necessity of changing their behaviours. “Change making” is a new strategy to concrete future state. Information design should also help predicting future scenarios and not only inform about present and past facts (good references http://www.humantific.com/ and www.amanda.com).
Change making and persuasive information specially concern about public decision-making. One strategic information to promote conscious and behaviour’s changing is simply given people a sort of feedback from their social lives’ impacts. Once they become aware about the consequences of their acts, they try to change it without affecting their lifestyles (http://www.dur.ac.uk/smart.centre/).
Several speakers pointed out “story telling” and “rhetoric” as key-words. Information tells stories. What kind of message would be more efficient to the audience? How this message should be given? Story telling and rhetoric are present in animated graphics and static ones as well. They are also very relevant for advocacy and campaigning information. Some great references about the use of story telling are the visual maps from Regina Rowland (http://www.ccsf.edu/Resources/Faculty/rrowland/ ), Tactical Technology Collective (http://www.tacticaltech.org/) ,
Aesthetics relevance of the data designed also matters: if there is no legend, is it possible to understand what is the information about?
About user experiences
Knowing well the targets profile is very relevant to the data design. In the case of visual information, the visual background of users matters: young males tend to prefer more interactive interfaces. Older people and women tend to prefer a “boring” interface (but clear, of course) specially if they dont have time enough to interact with the interface. They find out that the information they were searching for is more “imediate” and easy to find. Elderly people have a very different visual culture and experience difficulties when the interface is too dynamic (see the research by Patricia Wright).
About the interactivity’s use, knowing the real relevance of interactive information in a specific context is important. Does it help to facilitate its access? User experience design has also to do with the sense of clarity and must considers the user satisfaction: how much could the user understand from the information he had? Emotional aspects also matter: past experiences influence the way users will search, interpret and understand the data.
The challenge of user experience design is making people enjoy and pay attention to data. According to Nigel Holmes, information can also be “fun”. In his work, the comic aspect is used to make people relax and enjoy the information, helping its understanding (www.nigelholmes.com).
Some trends and key-words to point out:
• contextual statistics: the user who accesses the data, first has his own position in the statistical representation and then he compares it to the whole society;
• social indicators statistics: to facilitate public decision making;
• story telling: visual information comes together with a written explanation that helps its understanding;
• motivate discussion: its important offer space for the community discussion. Interaction and knowledge exchanging between people should be stimulated;
• user generated ranked statistics: share and create understandable information systems;
• data meaning;
• visual thinking;
• cross-cultural communication: ethnography research, visual maps and isotype can be a good tools;
• social media visualization is a strong trends;
• tools that encourage comparisons are more effective to improve understanding;
• new information aim to close the gap between qualitative and quantitative data;
• “living maps”: mapping popular emotions are new trends. A good example is the mapping of mobile activities in a city landscape (see http://www.urbanmobs.fr/en/);
• recommender systems (http://www.wolframalpha.com/).
Fields in which there are good opportunities to use information design:
Healthcare systems and public health organizations
Social indicators: “simon project” (www.gesis.org)
Geovisual analytics (http://ncva.itn.liu.se/)
Energy consumption and impacts (watt’s time, by EDF R&D Design)
Cities maps as social indicators resource: http://www.cityrank.ch/ and the “Urban Dynamic Model”
Information design for advocacy and campaigning
Information design to create persuasive information to help public decision-making
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