BBC Media Action Research & Learning Group Workshop

Physical Representation of Data

A workshop designed and led by Xinglin Sun with a group of researchers from BBC Media Action Research & Learning Group on how to use the affordance of everyday objects to create representation of data in presentations.

The workshop was focused on the following key word: PLAYFULNESS, NARRATIVE, METAPHOR and EXPERIENCE and Conceptual Metaphor Theory (CMT) was introduced as a theoretical background to analyse relationship between physical objects and abstract representations. One research question: Would you prefer a woman or a man’s voice on the call? from a recent survey on the mobile phone usage in Nigeria conducted by the group was used as the workshop context as it’s a frequently tackled question when the group feed their research outcomes to the BBC program teams.

Firstly the researchers were ask to work in groups, using the materials gathered from their office to create physical representations of different genders as a quick ten-mintues’ exercise. The provided materials various from stationary like paper clips, push pins, post-it and tapes to everyday objects like threads and plastic cups.

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One interesting response was made by recreating the textures from a roll of raw threads. The female was represented as fluffy and soft while the male gender was manifested by a series of hard, twisted knots. The participant asked his colleagues to touch the two different textures to identify different genders, which enriched the representation by adding the tactile value.


Then the researchers began to look into their datasets and tried to interpret the analysis of the data for this question from different categories such as age groups, martial status and education level.

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The responses from the researchers were quite positive and they started to use some of the approaches from the workshop to inform their future research presentations.

Research based workshop design and leader. Photo by Xinglin Sun.

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