In the spring ’14 semester I coached the project Transmedia Analytics, a collaboration between interactive production company Submarine, University of Amsterdam, and MediaLAB Amsterdam.
This project goal was to capture a variety of data points from two interactive web based documentaries (The Last Hijack and Unspeak) and present these data in a way that allows the producers get an understanding of how audiences engage and interact with their creation, and enrich the user experience accordingly. This resulted in a custom designed analytics dashboard tool: Figures. The progress of the project was documented on the students’ project blog.
Working with dynamic data without any coders: mission impossible?
One of the biggest challenges in this project, apart from the fact that working with data requires a pretty radical shift in your thinking and modes of interpretation (more about that on the project blog), was that we didn’t have access to a coder in the team. We worked with two excellent designers with some data visualisation experience, and two students with a background in media studies (new media), with no design skills or technical background. Not a small detail if you want to build a live dashboard for data interpretation.
Empowerment through coding
Making-do is a virtue
Two cultural studies students with zero coding experience built the entire dashboard with a bit of help from two colleagues to setup the back-end and data handling. How does that work? I think making-do is a key concept here. When facing a task, and being supported to just get going, have some help in keeping it small and manageable before getting on with the bigger problems, can get you a LONG way. They kicked ass and they made the whole thing work by making-do with whatever skills they could learn online, and by being incredibly resourceful. Thanks to the right kind of support from teams, coaches and partners, this team managed to pull off a project that was doomed to fail without a coder on board.
Students: Sieta van Horck, Anne van Egmond, Geert Hagelaar, Yannick Diezenberg. Researchers: Stefania Bercu, Bernhard Rieder (UvA). Tamara Pinos & Emile den Tex (tech support).