Beyond the PDF: Transforming data-driven government publications through participatory information design

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School of Arts, Design and Architecture | Master's thesis
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As data becomes a commodity to today's society, government bodies that publish data have the unique opportunity to become reliable sources for data as well as for insight into this data. Lately, open government data has become widely available through database interfaces and dashboards. In contrast, the interpretation of data is often still published in PDF reports that are hard to access and inconvenient to use. At the same time, a growing number of data visualization and design tools would allow for more advanced formats that match the expectations of today's users. The Master's thesis Beyond the PDF examines how a participatory information design approach can be applied to create more useful, useable, and meaningful data-driven government reports for a broad target audience. The thesis addresses two challenges: 1) The methodological challenge of defining a participatory information design approach; and 2) The applied challenge of developing a proposal for an online report format that addresses the needs of researchers, policymakers, journalists, and citizens alike. Following a research through design approach, the thesis constructs the participatory information design approach in theory and applies it in a design project, using the report Key Data on Early Childhood Education and Care in Europe as a case study. The project employs participatory field research methods to involve audiences in the design process, and design methods to create a design solution that meets their needs. Narrative design patterns, in particular, are examined and applied as a means to translate tacit audience needs into meaningful design artefacts. The outcomes from the design project address the applied challenge. They consist of a visual summary of the audiences' needs, tasks, and behaviors and a prototype of an online report portal that provides new tools and content formats to engage these audiences on multiple levels. Regarding the methodological challenge, the study demonstrates how participatory, information-focused, and designerly methods can be applied to further the dissemination of insight from government data.
Vyas, Rupesh
Thesis advisor
Hildén, Jonatan
Lambrechts, Maarten
information design, data visualization, participatory design, design methodology, design for government, communication of official data, dissemination of official statistics, government report
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