Publication

Data Sculptures as a Playful and Low-Tech Introduction to Working with Data

June 10, 2017

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Bhargava, R., & D’Ignazio, C. (2017). Data Sculptures as a Playful and Low-Tech Introduction to Working with Data. Presented at the Designing Interactive Systems, Edinburgh, Scotland.

Abstract

 There is a large and growing population of novice learners entering the field of working with data to tell stories, but they face many challenges related to process, methods and tools. This paper argues that activities focused on building physical manifestations of data, where some variable is mapped onto a physical artifact, are uniquely well-suited to scaffolding a process and exposing learners to methods so that they may take the next step in a learning journey. We introduce our pedagogical motivations as well as three principles that guide our work - use familiar materials, stay low-tech, and create a playground. Three case studies demonstrate how the playful activities we create based on these principles help novice learners explore advanced concepts very quickly. This work strongly suggests that creating data sculptures helps novices overcome initial barriers to learning, set expectations for a data storytelling process, and feel empowered to take the next step.

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