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Sesjon 4: Datavisualisering, makt og demokrati  

This panel asks: In what ways can data visualizations impact public opinion or political decision-making? How can dataviz be used rhetorically for certain causes, or worse, manipulatively? Are there specific contexts in which data visualizations become particularly significant or inflammable?

Torgeir Uberg Nærland, forsker NORCE Samfunn: How do data visualizations matter for democracy?

Data and their visualizations inform and sometimes provoke discussions about matters of political significance – be they climate change, tax cuts or immigration statistics. These discussions take place in a variety of domains, spanning from the institutionalized forums of bureaucracy, courts and parliament, to public debate, to the informal settings of citizens’ homes or workplace. As part of such discussions, data visualizations play a role in how society as a whole makes sense of important issues. In this way, data visualizations may also become consequential to how policies are formed and decisions are made. But, should we then think of data visualizations simply a resource for democracy? Alternatively, are there aspects of data visualization that problematizes such a celebratory conception? This talk addresses such questions. Drawing upon previous research from the INDVIL project, I will in this talk present case studies that critically illustrate how data visualizations can matter for democracy – for good and for bad.  

Thomas Bjørnskau, seniorrådgiver, Statistisk Sentralbyrå: Lessons learned from trying out visualizations at Statistics Norway.

Interactive data visualization represents the ultimate opportunity for a National Statistics Institute to provide citizens with data, analysis and insight about the population, the economy and the society. Statistics Norway has historically pioneered in data collection and sampling surveys, in data processing and the use of electronic computing machines, and was dealing with big data long before digital storage outnumbered analog storage. The institute has in recent times made a fairly successful move to digital dissemination by being early with a website (1995), free statistical database (2002), APIs (2013) and self-service microdata access (2018). But what about its effort on visual presentation of numbers? Are we capable of pioneering in the field of data visualization? Should it be a part of our mission?

Five years of testing and experimenting with infographics and data visualizations has given senior advisor Thomas Bjørnskau of the Communications Department of Statistics Norway some frustrating insight about the pitfalls, the opinions of others and the sea of inspirational ideas you will encounter when you suddenly become a true believer of data viz.

Helge Drange, professor ved UiB og forsker ved Bjerknessenteret for Klimaforsking: Seeing is believing - or can be misleading - in climate science, too.

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Helen Kennedy, professor, University of Sheffield: Do data visualisations have politics?

In 1980, Technology Studies Professor Langdon Winner asked ‘do artifacts have politics?’ and went on to show how different technical systems, including road and bridge infrastructures and train networks, have the world view of their makers embedded within them. This presentation asks a similar question of data visualisations. It takes as its starting point a contradiction which lies at the heart of claims made about data visualisation. On the one hand, it is claimed that representing data visually through datavis makes it possible to communicate data effectively and gives people the opportunity to analyse and examine large datasets which would otherwise be difficult to understand. In contrast, it is also claimed that data visualisations arenot neutral windows onto data; rather, they do ideological work and privilege certain viewpoints. The presentation tries to make sense of this contradiction in order to address the question of whether data visualisations have politics.