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Revealing design: Data physicalisation for the 21st century

Home > Projects > Zichtbaar slimmer: Data fysicalisatie voor de 21ste eeuw

Can you touch data? How long does a train need to be to have 1 million YouTube-members travel at the same time? The Amsterdam University of applied sciences (HvA), the Waag Society and students from the St. Jan school together will investigate and create fun and interesting data physicalisations. Those are physical representations of big data, that you can really actively see and touch instead of on a screen or in a book.

Invisible data in a computer controlled society
We increasingly live in an invisible world of data. Societal and technological developments, such as the rise of mass-production and distribution of products, digital techniques, and small intelligent devices have contributed to a world that can be characterized by virtual products and invisible, complex data transactions in which data and its usage is increasingly invisible. With the advent of “Big data” and computing intelligence, information is and can be increasingly produced, collected, analysed, shared and used. Additionally, with surveillance technology, everyday life can be routinely monitored. However, the underling processes and implications of such pervasive data systems are not always clearly seen, communicated or discussed with the public and consumer.

Physicalisation in education
The growing collection of ‘big’ data and other technological means does not necessarily and directly lead to more knowledge, insights and skills. Still, new technological developments, such as digital fabrication in Fab lab-environments offer the possibility to make digital data more physical and so understandable. From the education perspective there is a demand for knowledge and understanding for enabling students to embrace and shape these developments, and increase 21st century skills.

The aim of ‘Revealing design’ is to uncover the potential of data physicalisation –making data tangible– as a way to support the 21st century skills communicating, critical thinking and creativity. The primary goal is to investigate the potential value of data physicalisation in education.

On April 23, 2018 we celebrated the kick-off of Zichtbaar slimmer (Revealing design) WITH cake and creative physicalizations. Read here the detailed visual report.

On June 14, 2018 we held a try-out workshop Data physicalization in which the participants got to actively engage with making data tangible. The workshop @ de Waag was open to everyone! See this site for details, and see here for the workshop findings.

On the 19th of September 2018, we conducted a design session with teachers at the St Jan school. This is an important part in the co-creation proces in which the project partners a collaboratively working on a succesfull teaching format for data physicalization and 21st century skills.

After that, almost 100 children and teachers of the St Jan school actively worked during the consecutive weeks on data physicalisations around the school project theme of friendship. The children of group 7 and 8 made their own collected data tangible and physical for experiencing data in a different way.

On October 19, 2018, the children proudly presented their data physicalizations to their parents, teachers and the younger classes (please also see this news item).

In December 2018, there was another Data physicalization workshop for HvA Master Students in Teaching Economics. Many students stated to be wanting to apply this in their future teaching.

On March 15 2019, we evaluated the research findings with the project partners, namely teachers of the elementary school St Jan. We visualized and presented the results of the research in a booklet. See also this news item.
Furthermore, we elaborated on important factors for a succesfull data physicalisation lesson and discussed future directions.

On the 11th of April 2019, there was a Maker Education club evening at the Waag society, Amsterdam with a workshop and discussion around data physicalization for everyone in the field of maker education (namely Amsterdams teachers from elementary and high schools and library professionals).

On the 5th of May 2019, Marije Kanis presented the vision of making physical at the international and prestigious CHI conference in Glasgow.
See also this news item, and the paper Physical sensemaking: Crafting for an invisible world of data (2019) Marije Kanis, Proceedings of CHI2019 Workshop: Troubling Innovation: Craft and Computing Across Boundaries, Glasgow, Scotland.

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