The pleasure and pain of visualising data in times of data power

Helen Kennedy, Rosemary Lucy Hill

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)


This paper reflects on the growing urge amongst researchers to visualise large-scale digital data. It argues that the desire to visualise unfolds in the context of a complex entanglement of a) the pragmatics of data visualisation, b) the problematic ideological work that visualisations do, c) the politics of data power and neoliberalism, and d) visualisation pleasures. The paper begins by outlining the considerations that constitute data visualisation design, highlighting the complexity of the process. It then provides an overview of critical debates about the way that visualisations work which are relevant to reflective visualisation practice. Then it turns to the context (of datafication and the neoliberalisation of the university) in which academic researchers contemplate visualisation futures and which simultaneously constrains the realisation of these futures. Finally, the paper acknowledges the cracks in these structures, the pleasure of visualising data, for example in using visualisation for advocacy and social justice.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)768-782
Number of pages14
JournalTelevision and New Media
Issue number8
Early online date7 Sep 2016
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2017
Externally publishedYes


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