The Use of Data Visualisation in English Local Authorities

Jenson, Adam (2018) The Use of Data Visualisation in English Local Authorities. Doctoral thesis, Northumbria University.

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Abstract

In recent years, there has been an explosion in the amount of data we have at our disposal. Data is big, open-source and transparent. As such, there is a renewed faith in data-driven decision-making. However, this also comes with its own caveats; the power of data is based on an assumed objectivity, of presenting a view from nowhere. These assumptions of objectivity, and the vast increase in the amount of data, have left problems in interpreting it. Organisations trying to make sense of data include local authorities, who are facing challenging times through enforced austerity spending measures, which have seen budget cuts, service restrictions and reduced staff numbers. They are told to become more efficient and targeted in their working practices, and this has seen a move in some organisations towards a data-driven approach. One proposed solution to this has come through data visualisation, which seeks to make sense of data, either through an ability to analyse previously unmanageable data sets, or through the communication of findings to a wider audience. It is this context from which this thesis draws its empirical focus.

This thesis contributes to methodological discourse in investigating data visualisation from a qualitative perspective. It investigates the wide range of networks, actors and intermediaries within the context of four specific local authority case study organisations in England. It makes a telling contribution to address the lacuna in the theory of data visualisation by applying a post-representational approach adopted from cartography, which seeks to build upon, rather than replace, the growing literature on data visualisation. A post-representational approach recasts data visualisation as a broad set of practices, to think critically about the practices of visualisation and not simply focus on the product. As such, it creates a theoretical space for future investigation, which incorporates both those seeking applied knowledge (asking technical questions) and those asking theoretical questions. Understanding data visualisations as processes reveals that they are not practiced in isolation; they are mobilised in relation to other tasks and are subject to the complexities, interactions, constraints and emotions of that moment. Unpicking these conditions, as well as the aesthetic and technical elements of production, provides a holistic interpretation of how data visualisations are brought into being and made to do work in the world, whilst contributing to the larger field of post-representational cartography by moving beyond maps and exploring the implications and differences in engagement between maps and data visualisations.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Governance, Localism, Cartography, Post-representational
Subjects: L400 Social Policy
N900 Others in Business and Administrative studies
Department: Faculties > Engineering and Environment > Geography and Environmental Sciences
University Services > Graduate School > Doctor of Philosophy
Depositing User: Paul Burns
Date Deposited: 23 Oct 2019 10:53
Last Modified: 25 Oct 2019 16:15
URI: http://nrl.northumbria.ac.uk/id/eprint/41202

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