The Human Data Interaction Lab focuses on the human factors in the conception, use, and understanding of data. The lab functions as a venue for discussing matters related to human data interaction broadly and invites students and faculty to join forces to better understand these aspects.
What is Human Data Interaction?
Human data interaction (HDI) refers to the way that people interact with data in order to make sense of it, derive insights from it, and ultimately make decisions based on it. HDI involves the use of various tools, technologies, and techniques to facilitate this interaction, such as data visualization tools, data analysis software, machine learning algorithms, and novel interfaces and techniques for interacting with these tools.
In the lab, we consider the interaction between humans and data, such as through visualizations, analysis, and interpretation. This also includes the ways in which people’s perceptions, biases, and goals can influence their interactions with data, as well as the ethical and social implications of data use. For example, by considering data accessbility from both human, technical, and legal perspectives. This might include whether data is presented in a way that is understandable and actionable to the people to which it matters most, which might include numeracy, data and visualization literacy, specialized skills, and cognitive differences.
These questions are becoming increasingly important as individuals, organisations, and society at large becomes more data-driven. On an individual level, human data interaction might consider how to support people in using data to learn about themselves. On a societal level, human data interaction might consider how to support a public data-informed discourse. Similarly, organisations across fields such as business, science, and healthcare all rely on data in their operation. It is therefore essential that people are able to effectively interact with it in order to gain valuable insights and make informed decisions, and to better understand how to make that happen.
HDI considers the design and evaluation of tools, techniques, and interfaces for interacting with data, as well as the cognitive and perceptual processes involved in understanding and interpreting data. It also takes into account the social and ethical implications of data use and the context in which data is used.
Designing Human Data Interaction
With a base in the Digital Design department at ITU, design perspectives are an integral part of the lab. For example, this includes user needs, goals, and limitations, as well as the characteristics of the data itself, in order to create effective and usable interfaces. Good design can help users understand and interpret data more effectively, leading to better decision-making.
However, effective and usable interfaces are only part of the equation. Playful data interactions can help users discover patterns, insights, and relationships that might not be immediately apparent through more formal data analysis techniques. For example, data visualization tools can be designed to be visually appealing, engaging, and easy to use, which can help users understand and interact with data more effectively. Moreover, playful data interactions might also help make people’s data experiences more accessible and enjoyable, thus allowing people overcome concerns, for example, of lack of skills. Design might also consider immersive and interactive data experiences, such as virtual reality environments that allow users to explore and interact with data in new and innovative ways.
The lab emerged from the ashes of the Data Science & Society (DSS) lab, which existed from 2017 to 2020. The focus of the DSS lab was to bridge the gap from academia society and industry and allow students and researchers to work on real-world data with cutting edge methodologies. Former members of the DSS lab includes Luca Rossi, Natalie Schluter, Obaida Hanteer, Sami Brandt, Jes Frellsen, Oliver Müller, Christina Neumayer, Irina Shklovski, Rasmus Pagh, Aske Kammer, and Paolo Burelli.
As the members of the DSS lab relocated and Aske Mottelson, Søren Knudsen, and Luca Rossi founded the Human-Centered Data Science research group in 2021, the ideas for a lab pivot materialised. As part of this change, we discussed how we could establish a stronger physical presence for the lab and the possibilities this would provide, both for interaction betwen students and faculty and for doing more tangible research and teaching in the context of the lab. We discussed these early ideas with department management, from which the idea to embed parts of the 4D corridor into our lab was formed. During 2022, we remodelled the third nook of the corridor with a large display for collaborative work, presentations, and prototyping, as well as hang-out spaces and hot desks for visitors.
Thai Wang started as our lab assistant in 2023, which is when we also started to organize our weekly data jams. This site was constructed to communicate these events.
Formally, we changed our name to the Human Data Interaction Lab on April 1, 2023.