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Data Studio

The ‘Data Studio’ is a new format being developed by UAL to create and explore connections between design research, data science and social and cultural research.

Often tied up with narratives about innovation, new collaborative formats have emerged to enable organisations and groups to generate and explore ideas. For example, hackathons and sprints are a well-established practice within software development to engage a diverse group of people in generating and prototyping software through fast, intense iterative cycles ranging from a day to a month. Co-design workshops hosted by organisations or self-organised through volunteer teams such as the Global Service Jam expose non-designers to methods and tools to generate and explore ideas rapidly and collaboratively. Online platforms such as OpenIDEO and Slack and social media tools are also entwined in these processes, enabling people who are not physically co-located to participate in concept development and share their ideas.

In this context, UAL is exploring ways to combining the ‘studio’ approaches found in art and design schools with other kinds of expertise with a focus on data. Specifically, we are combining:

  • Design and the arts, including user experience, service design and communication design as well as expressive and creative arts approaches
  • Inventive social and cultural research
  • Data analytics and software development.

Over the next year we will be trying out new methods and ways of organising Data Studios to assess their relevance as a means of applying this innovation methodology to organisational, social and policy issues and doing cross-disciplinary research.

We’re inspired by related activities such as the Techno-Anthropology Lab at the University of Aalborg, the Citizen Data Lab and the Civic Data Design Lab and aim to share what we learn and develop more widely.

Data Studio #1: Food Poverty

Data Studio #1 Food Poverty took place in July 2016 at Central Saint Martins, UAL. It brought 35 people from different backgrounds together for 2 days to explore data about food poverty and foodbank operations. During the workshop participants worked in small, mixed teams to explore data relating to food poverty and generate proposals for new research projects.

Some of their proposals focused on how insights from research might be used to shape policy, organisational strategy and service design. Some of them proposed linking research about people’s experiences of food poverty and triggers shaping use of foodbanks with other data sets. Some of them proposed new connections between players in the food poverty, benefits system and social sector.As well as producing proposals for new research, the studio encouraged participants to question assumptions about the nature of research and how data is gathered, analysed, visualised, interpreted and used.

The Data Studio was organized by the Innovation Insights Hub, University of the Arts London and funded by UAL. It was designed and facilitated by Professor Lucy Kimbell (UAL) in collaboration with Dr Nina Wakeford (Goldsmiths), Professor Richard Vidgen (UNSW) and Andy Hamflett (AAM Associates) with support from Naomi Bailey-Cooper. Thanks go to the Trussell Trust for their expert input and to all the participants who took part.

Data Studio #1 is documented in a report that shares the themes, insights and questions that emerged about food poverty and food bank operations, as well as using different kinds of data in relation to social challenges and service design. The report also includes eight ‘proto’ research projects addressing different aspects of food poverty and foodbank operations. Some of these are now being further developed by some of the participants.

Data Studio #2: Patient Experience Data

With colleagues from Kings College London, the Innovation Insights Hub presented Data Studio 2 at Central Saint Martins, UAL in March 2017. The workshop brought together 16 researchers and healthcare professionals with a shared interest in patient experience data within healthcare organisations. A full write-up of the two day event will follow shortly.

Data Studio #3: Environmental Change

Data Studio #3 Environmental Change took place in May 2017 at Modern Art Oxford. 14 people took part, including researchers from the Environmental Change Institute, University of Oxford, artists and designers from University of the Arts London and members of the public.

The workshop took participants through a process of first getting to know models of environmental change produced by researchers, and then working together to generate prototypes of new ways of enabling people to engage with research insights and data. The models produced did more than

The models produced did more than visualise academic research; they translated research concepts and materialised them so audiences can experience their own agency in relation to environmental change. The proto-sculptures suggested the potential for opening up the social, material, behavioral and experiential dimensions of environmental change.