Physicalizations of Big Data in Ethnographic Context

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With the Big Data hype, making digital data accessible and relatable for non-data experts is becoming an increasing challenge. In this paper we suggest Data Physicalization as a novel approach to facilitate conversations with collaborators about the meaning of data. While this challenge has been approached with data visualizations before, we propose that Data Physicalizations can bring stronger engagement and even more depth to the data than visualizations can offer. Based on four design examples, we investigate how data, when made physical, can be used to instigate valuable reflections between field researchers and non-data experts, and can serve as a platform for design. In all cases we worked with Data Physicalization to enhance our own understanding of the field, to engage collaborators in sense-making, and to move towards design proposals. In the concluding section we discuss the intricate process of developing such Data Physicalizations and suggest traits that make them successful.

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