Methodological Statement

Methodological Statement

The modern, technology centred world can be used to communicate with astonishing speed, messages can spread quickly and people can be mobilised by digital means. Images, data visualisations (data viz), data journalism, social media, electronic marketing, electronic publications, email, and more, help to disperse information and can raise awareness on prominent issues, spreading to people who would previously have been cut off from certain sources in the analogue world. This technologically driven environment has had a democratising effect on previously protected information

Humans in this technological environment have, because of their submersion in the digital world, become passive consumers of information and negativity; desensitized and hardened by the constant barrage of words and images. Modern life has left the average human tired and unhappy; filled with processed chemical foods and medicines, he sits and watches the television, appalled at atrocities on the other side of the world, but cares nothing for his own community or for the degradation of his own freedoms by his national government (“Story of Stuff (2007, OFFICIAL Version) – YouTube,” n.d.). The consumer-human is passive, but receptive. If the information is presented correctly, data visualisation and data journalism could be the impetus for raising awareness of pertinent issues vital to survival, and the re-awakening of the human sense of self as part of the intricate dynamic living organism of life on earth. Data viz and data journalism can communicate ideas in a visually stimulating and palatable manner, and display sterile data in such a way as to communicate to the passive human through the technology he is so attached to. These methods can be valuable tools to connect and communicate ideas and visualisations of the natural consequences of patriarchal dominion over nature as representative of control and subversion of all oppressed groups.

Using quantitative methods to interrogate existing datasets; due to the scope of this project and the amount of data required to make the relevant comparisons and investigate patterns and correlations across a broad range of subjects and geographical areas, it would be beyond the reach of this paper to attempt to collect data first-hand. The required data is freely and openly available via national, governmental, European or World sources, which allows focus on the comparisons rather than the collection of the data. Choosing to use and interrogate data from reputable sources, with a wide range of data available and many countries covered for accurate comparisons, this project utilises datasets and tools provided on various online platforms. UN gender statistics, (“The World’s Women 2015,” n.d.), for data relating to women and their lived experience; (“UN Women justice report,” 2011), for data relating to sustainability and natural resources; OECD, (“Statistics / OECD Environment Statistics,” n.d.), (OECD, 2015) and for data covering world development statistics; “DataBank | The World Bank,” n.d.) which gives “free and open access to world development data”. The use of readily available datasets removes the need for collection, compilation, analysis or organisation of primary data.

Exploring the possible and proposed tools and methods and their implications for the creation of a website which will record, reflect upon, and use data to explore correlations between humans and the environment; in terms of a Content Management System (CMS) shows itself as a popular and technologically persistent choice which is leading the current market and is used by 27.8% of all websites (“Usage Statistics and Market Share of WordPress for Websites, April 2017,” n.d.). Factors considered when selecting a CMS include: ease of use, persistence, level of skill required, product, aesthetic, interface, front end looks and back end manipulability. This website needs to be both user friendly and content management friendly, it needs to look after information, be easily searchable, and visually attractive. Reclaim Hosting (“Reclaim Hosting | Take Control of your Digital Identity,” n.d.), as a stable and accessible web hosting service encompassing WordPress in a fully adaptable format affords variety and provides valuable options in terms of CMS. WordPress (via Reclaim), as a user-friendly CMS with the capacity for technical tweaking and altering the HTML and CSS to suit specific needs presents itself as the obvious tool for this project. There are many other website builder services available, but due to an established familiarity with, and time constraints preventing the building of a website to a satisfactory and attractive design standard from scratch with HTML and CSS alone, the use of a CMS or Web Content Management System (WCMS) seems the most applicable to the needs of this project, balancing support, aesthetics and content management capabilities.

Tools are needed to create data visualisations; the Word Bank website (“DataBank | The World Bank,” n.d.) includes a data visualisation tool, already “clean” data, the facility to download large datasets with specified criteria, and the codes for embedding created data visualisations. For other data sources (listed above), the data was downloaded, then cleaned (where necessary) to remove any erroneous symbols or text from the excel documents, then run through data visualisation tools, in this case Data Hero (“DataHero – simple yet powerful data visualization,” n.d.) and Tableau Public (“Tableau Public,” n.d.). Tableau Pubic has an inbuilt data cleaner, and DataHero also flags any ambiguous headings or unnecessary symbols, so true data cleaning isn’t necessary with these tools, which formed a large part of the selection criteria.

Once the measures for determining what constitutes environmental degradation, social degradation, health, wellbeing and connections between human and earth health were decided and the relevant datasets downloaded and run through the data visualisation tools, the related visualisations were created by interacting with the tools to create visually impactful graphs, maps, and charts, and the resulting visualisations embedded (where available) into the digital artefact website, encompassing a blog of the process, pages for the final piece of data journalism including data visualisations framed with written narrative, a home page with an introduction to the idea behind the project, and links to data used. These aspects come together to create a digital artefact which explores connections and correlations between human health and Earth health, which is reflective about the process of its creation using a blog section, and where the data can be presented online as a data journalism article which forms a part of the finished artefact.