Innovative and creative methods for researching people’s use and understandings of their data – a resource list

In our Living with Personal Data project, we are experimenting with innovative and creative methods for researching how people use and make sense of their personal digital data. We have put together a resource list of methods used by other researchers as well as those we have experimented with thus far.

Human-computer interaction and design researchers

3D printing of personal data into edible treats (Khot et al., 2014; Khot et al., 2015a) or ‘mocktails’ using personal data (Khot et al., 2015b)

3D printing of personal data into decorative items (Stusak et al., 2014)

Data-things (Nissen and Bowers, 2015)

Data craft (Thudt et al., 2017)

Data comics (Bach et al., 2017; Bach et al., 2018; Lewis and Coles-Kemp, 2014)

Personal visualisations (Thudt et al., 2015; Thudt et al., 2017; Thudt et al., 2018)

Lego modelling (Heath et al., 2019)

Data selfies (Kim et al., 2019)

Various creative methods (collage building, questionable concepts, digital portraits) (Dunphy et al., 2014)

Data souvenirs (Petrelli et al., 2017)

Data narratives (Vertesi et al., 2016)

Patina-inspired personalisation (Lee et al., 2015; Lee et al., 2016)

Speculative design (Gross et al., 2017)

ListeningCups (Desjardins and Tihanyi, 2019)

Taking the code for a walk (van Ditmar and Lockton)

Drama performances (Windeyer, 2019)

Social researchers (sociology, anthropology, media studies)

Data journeys (Bates et al., 2016)

Story completion (Lee, 2019)

Data walks/walkshops (Jarke, 2019; Powell, 2018)

Critical pedagogies and arts-based experiments (Markham and Pereira, 2019; Markham, 2019; Markham, 2020)

MobileMiner app (Pybus et al., 2015)

Our methods

Timelines, card game and inventing data machines (Lupton and Michael, 2015; 2017; Michael and Lupton, 2016)

Video ethnography (Lupton et al., 2018; Pink et al., 2017a; 2017b; Sumartojo et al., 2016)

Autoethnography (Salmela et al., 2018)

New metaphors cards – see blog post

Zine making – see blog post

Creative writing responses – see blog post

Reference list

Bach B, Riche NH, Carpendale S, et al. (2017) The emerging genre of data comics. IEEE Computer Graphics and Applications 37: 6-13.

Bach B, Wang Z, Farinella M, et al. (2018) Design patterns for data comics. Proceedings of the 2018 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems. Montreal: ACM.

Bates J, Lin Y-W and Goodale P. (2016) Data journeys: Capturing the socio-material constitution of data objects and flows. Big Data & Society, 3. Available at

Desjardins A and Tihanyi T. (2019) ListeningCups: a case of data tactility and data stories. Proceedings of the 2019 on Designing Interactive Systems Conference. Vancouver: ACM.

Dunphy P, Vines J, Coles-Kemp L, et al. (2014) Understanding the experience-centeredness of privacy and security technologies. Proceedings of the 2014 New Security Paradigms Workshop: ACM.

Gross S, Bardzell J, Bardzell S, et al. (2017) Persuasive Anxiety: designing and deploying material and formal explorations of personal tracking devices. Human–Computer Interaction 32: 297-334.

Heath CP, Crivellaro C, Coles-Kemp L, et al. (2019) Relations are more than bytes: re-thinking the benefits of smart services with people and things. Proceedings of the 2019 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems. Glasgow: ACM.

Jarke J. (2019) Open government for all? Co-creating digital public services for older adults through data walks. Online Information Review 43: 1003-1020.

Khot R, Hjorth L and Mueller FF. (2014) Understanding physical activity through 3D printed material artifacts. Proceedings of the 2014 SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems. Toronto: ACM.

Khot R, Pennings R and Mueller FF. (2015a) EdiPulse: supporting physical activity with chocolate printed messages. Proceedings of the 2015 SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI ’15). Seoul: ACM.

Khot RA, Lee J, Hjorth L, et al. (2015b) TastyBeats: Celebrating heart rate data with a drinkable spectacle. Proceedings of the Ninth International Conference on Tangible, Embedded, and Embodied Interaction. ACM.

Kim NW, Im H, Henry Riche N, et al. (2019) DataSelfie: empowering people to design personalized visuals to represent their data. Proceedings of the 2019 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems. Glasgow: ACM.

Lee CS. (2019) Datafication, dataveillance, and the social credit system as China’s new normal. Online Information Review. Available at

Lee M-H, Cha S and Nam T-J. (2015) Patina engraver: visualizing activity logs as patina in fashionable trackers. Proceedings of the 2015 SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing System. Seoul: ACM.

Lee M-H, Son O and Nam T-J. (2016) Patina-inspired personalization: personalizing products with traces of daily use. Proceedings of the 2016 ACM Conference on Designing Interactive Systems. Brisbane: ACM.

Lewis MM and Coles-Kemp L. (2014) Who says personas can’t dance?: the use of comic strips to design information security personas. CHI ’14 Extended Abstracts on Human Factors in Computing Systems. Toronto: ACM.

Lupton D and Michael M. (2015) Big data seductions and ambivalences. Discover Society. Available at

Lupton D and Michael M. (2017) ‘Depends on who’s got the data’: public understandings of personal digital dataveillance. Surveillance & Society 15: 254-268.

Lupton D, Pink S, LaBond CH, et al. (2018) Personal data contexts, data sense and self-tracking cycling. International Journal of Communication, 12. Available at

Markham A and Pereira G. (2019) Experimenting with algorithmic memory-making: Lived experience and future-oriented ethics in critical data science. Frontiers in Big Data 2 (Proceedings of the 13th International AAAI Conference on Web and Social Media). Available at

Markham AN. (2019) Critical pedagogy as a response to datafication. Qualitative Inquiry, 25(8), 754-760.

Markham AN. (2020) Taking data literacy to the streets: critical pedagogy in the public sphere. Qualitative Inquiry 26: 227-237.

Michael M and Lupton D. (2016) Toward a manifesto for the ‘public understanding of big data’. Public Understanding of Science 25: 104-116.

Nissen B and Bowers J. (2015) Data-Things: digital fabrication situated within participatory data translation activities. Proceedings of the 33rd Annual ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems. Seoul: ACM.

Petrelli D, Marshall MT, O’brien S, et al. (2017) Tangible data souvenirs as a bridge between a physical museum visit and online digital experience. Personal and Ubiquitous Computing 21: 281-295.

Pink S, Sumartojo S, Lupton D, et al. (2017a) Empathetic technologies: digital materiality and video ethnography. Visual Studies 32: 371-381.

Pink S, Sumartojo S, Lupton D, et al. (2017b) Mundane data: the routines, contingencies and accomplishments of digital living. Big Data & Society, 4. Available at

Powell A. (2018) The data walkshop and radical bottom-up data knowledge. In: Knox H and Nafus D (eds) Ethnography for a Data-Saturated World. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 212-232.

Pybus J, Coté M and Blanke T. (2015) Hacking the social life of Big Data. Big Data & Society, 2. Available at

Salmela T, Valtonen A and Lupton D. (2018) The affective circle of harassment and enchantment: reflections on the ŌURA Ring as an intimate research device. Qualitative Inquiry 25: 260-270.

Stusak S, Tabard A, Sauka F, et al. (2014) Activity sculptures: exploring the impact of physical visualizations on running activity. IEEE Transactions on Visualization and Computer Graphics 20: 2201-2210.

Sumartojo S, Pink S, Lupton D, et al. (2016) The affective intensities of datafied space. Emotion, Space and Society 21: 33-40.

Thudt A, Baur D, Huron S, et al. (2015) Visual mementos: reflecting memories with personal data. IEEE Transactions on Visualization and Computer Graphics 22: 369-378.

Thudt A, Hinrichs U and Carpendale S. (2017) Data craft: integrating data into daily practices and shared reflections. CHI’17  Workshop on Quantified Data and Social Relationships. Denver: ACM.

Thudt A, Hinrichs U, Huron S, et al. (2018) Self-reflection and personal physicalization construction. Proceedings of the 2018 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems. ACM.

van Ditmar D and Lockton D. Taking the code for a walk. interactions 23: 68-71.

Vertesi J, Kaye J, Jarosewski SN, et al. (2016) Data Narratives: uncovering tensions in personal data management. Proceedings of the 19th ACM Conference on Computer-Supported Cooperative Work & Social Computing. San Francisco: ACM Press.

Windeyer RC. (2019) Faces between numbers: re-imagining theatre and performance as instruments of critical data studies within a liberal arts education. Research in Drama Education: The Journal of Applied Theatre and Performance 24: 316-332.

Published by Deborah Lupton

I am SHARP Professor and leader of the Vitalities Lab in the Centre for Social Research in Health and Social Policy Research Centre, UNSW Sydney

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