"Am I a Graphic Designer?" data sculptures on wheels by Žarko Dumičić (2019)

Data Physicalization as a Design Tool for Science Communication

In times of great political and social polarization, as well as rapid technological advancements, it is of crucial importance that all citizens – regardless of their background – can access scientific evidence to be empowered to make informed decisions. However, there are issues in contemporary society both with access to complex data for non-experts, as well as data literacy of the general population.

Design and art disciplines have the potential to help mitigate some of the issues in science communication for non-experts by communicating scientific information and concepts in form of embodied, visceral experiences one can physically interact with and learn from. A growing research area that is especially relevant to the field of science communication is data physicalization. Data physicalizations are physical artifacts that communicate and represent data through their own material or geometry (Jansen et al., 2015). The research findings over the years have shown that physicalizations can, among other results, assist with understanding of data, user reflection and engagement, as well as stimulate discussions about data (Dumičić et al., 2022). These findings can greatly contribute to communication and transferring of scientific concepts and knowledge to lay audiences.

Consequently, this Berlin University of the Arts’ doctoral research project focuses on exploring and researching the impact of physicalizations on non-experts’ experience of data within the field of science communication. The research project combines multiple methodologies – such as Research-through-Design to develop the physicalization artifacts as well as empirical, mixed-method studies for their evaluation – to contribute new knowledge to the growing physicalization research field.

Supervision: Prof. Dr. Gesche Joost
Research: Žarko Dumičić
Project partner: Berlin University of the Arts
Funded by: Berlin University of the Arts

“How Motivated are You?” balloon data installation by Žarko Dumičić (2018)
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