Week 23 – The DIEP Framework to reflect on our Data Visualisation project so far.

The DIEP strategy is made up of four areas to make up critical reflective writing, describe, interpret, evaluate and plan.  I am going to use this strategy and talk about it in the context of our current data visualisation project in progress at this time.

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Figure 1 – Building my map of Winchester high street (Lewis, 2017)

D – Describe

This project is to collect, organise and create an exhibitory data visualisation about the City of Winchester for a public exhibition. We were assigned to work in the same groups as the previous project under the same tutor so that placed seven of us to work together on this project.

There were a number of different topics available, to stop everyone working in the exact same location we had to choose one and base our data collection around the location, we selected Winchester high street and that would be our base for this assignment.

So now the challenge was to find potential information we would want to find out in the high street, after an initial tutorial we broke up into four different groups to study different areas, fresh food, waste, people and a video project on the day of our data collection. Over the course of twelve hours we collected our data which we would then turn into our exhibition display only a matter of weeks later.

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Figure 2 – Our class and the exhibition ready to go on display to the public (Lewis, 2017)

From there we would go on to visualise our data, get our boards ready to be sent to print in time for the print deadline, prepare an exhibition space in the room we were assigned, in my own role as course representative I would head out and promote the event around the university campus, shortly after we would have to meet a deadline to allow us the chance to review and evaluate the work we produced as a class before the work goes on display to the public for a week bringing the project to a close.

I – Interpret

This project had the potential to be successful, we did well on a previous project together, I took quite a leading role in that project and I believe the others wanted more involvement in this next project or at least more evidence of their participation. We also had a member who was new to the group but also quite defensive and even hostile at times, in the previous project she had managed to fall out with a number of people in the group so working together again was always going to be strained. Another factor that was becoming increasingly apparant, our group seemed to be 5, 1 and 1. We had two individuals and five who appear to get on very well on the course and outside the studio, I do believe that also had an impact on how this project went.

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Figure 3 –  9am on Winchester high street on data collection day (Lewis, 2017)

We went out into the field, three working on a video project in a rotation system that seemed to work if slightly overstaffed. We had two working a fresh food survey, one working on a litter idea, photographing and collecting litter and myself working on a survey to ask people who were in the high street at the time of speaking to them.

I suffered from something unforeseen that day, I was poorly, so poorly that I failed to drive home and actually stayed in a hotel until I was well enough to drive home.

What was really telling was just how quiet the group was after the research day, there was barely any conversation for days until it was absolutely necessary. I had a difficult time in the following tutorial, already working on a second choice idea, that data was considered quite basic and dull and was possibly the weakest of the group, so I then started to move on to a third and fourth choice option just to have some work to show for myself in this exhibition.

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Figure 4 – Trying to bring all our projects together and unify them (Lewis, 2017)

Our group had a problem at this point, we had strayed out into quite individual ideas and really at some point we needed to bring everyone back together and start to fine tune the ideas or even ditch some weaker ideas to produce a better outcome to the exhibition we were about to present, this never happened and in particular what made things worse, the one student who was practically isolated out to be a loner had worked hard on the research day to uncover the best data, insights and collection from that day, she had the strongest work, but no one wanted to work with her to help develop her successful research.

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Figure 5 – Working on my display board on Adobe Illustrator (Lewis, 2017)

Another interesting observation was that in the marking of the projects the students seemed to mark the work to almost the same hierarchy as the previous video project, it was almost like the strong projects in the video project were assumed to be strong projects this time around and the marking followed suit, the tutors marking presented a different pecking order, still close but some groups fared better than others and some were ranked pretty lowly in comparison.

E – Evaluate

So at the conclusion on this project I’m now sat rather frustrated and disappointed by how this groupwork unfolded.

As the ideas were being developed a number of insights occured, everyone was coming up with individual ideas for this exhibition, ironically it seemed to naturally fall into place that we had 4 groups, 2, 2, 2 and 1. What was interesting was one member of our team instantly without discussion dropped her research and rather than work with the individual she wanted to join her friends, I was very disappointed in that person. I do believe they took a safe option or even a lazy option. I don’t believe we needed three people to work on the video for this exhibition.

My lead idea to do a group based project based around cafe franchises and independent cafes in the high street was largely ignored, that was frustrating for me, but I also feel like the others were protecting themselves by wanting to have more of a leading role or independent role in this exhibition, interesting enough a different group had great success basing a project around 2/3 of the three venues I highlighted for my original idea for this project.

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Figure 6 – The survey I used on the high street collecting responses (Lewis, 2017)

Our group could be considered to be showing good teamwork and equally poor teamwork, both the video and fresh research went smoothly, The litter research went well only due to the determinination and focus of the individual working away on it, due to my illness, being outside all day was a struggle, I wasn’t doing well talking to people but when I wasn’t alone and with members of the team it seemed to help and surveys got answered, I reached around 35-40 before I was too ill to continue, sadly as I confirmed that to my team, they didn’t attempt to help me with my research they just left it regardless of the fact it was incomplete. 42 replies, I was seeking 100 for a useful set of data, very frustrating, sadly I knew when I left that day I couldn’t trust the rest of my team to come through and help me finish my research if only for the good of the team.

One girl in our team was also very isolated, others were poking fun at her behaviour and traits, it wasn’t all one way traffic, she would get very defense, bad mouth the team, argue with tutors and students alike, she is very free sprited but does seem to struggle in a team, communication wasn’t good between the team and this person. I tried really hard to reach out to this person and progress was possible but it was slow and on such a tight project, it was a little too late to salvage the result of the data visualisation work.

So instead of developing the best ideas we all carried on down our own lines of work, the video I again repeat which was overstaffed was finished extremely early, I do believe they could have incorporated some visuals from the litter research to better link the projects but the idea was basically ignored and kept out of the video. The fresh research turned into some nice visuals and presentation, my issue with it was that it was just too opinion based, people could answer how they wanted and not truthfully which makes me question the value of the research at all. My own data was practically dropped at this point and I created a map out of secondary data, even that was underdeveloped as I worked hard at the sacrifice of my own work to try and help bring the other projects together.

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Figure 7 – A screenshot of my process to use fonts to try and unify the projects, sadly the litter project was printed in something entirely unique instead (Lewis, 2017)

I created a template, the fonts we should use and recommended sizes to help unify the work as it turned out the litter data completely ignored this idea and made our work appear more detached from each other at the conclusion. Other problems we had with the limited time was there was a strong will to make better use of the litter data, I tried to help to the extent that I simply stopped my fourth and fifth choice ideas to make a sculpture and make a piece of text to unify our work all together to be presented on the lower half of my board, sadly with only one night to work on it, it was too late and it simply had to be left as a concept or what if when it came to the assessment of the exhibition.

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Figure 8 – The initial print out of these zines were expensive to produce and not suitable to be used in the exhibition, not the best thought out idea (Lewis, 2017)

Even in the finale of this project our teamwork was laughable, we all spent money to protect our involvement in this project, to produce visuals that highlighted our involvement in the project, clearly the focus was on proving involvement to get a grade over producing a strong exhibition. At the conclusion rather than everything get costed evenly, some didn’t believe they should contribute beyond what they put in, leaving the individuals in the group to have spent far more than those who teamed up with their friends taking the easy way out of a challenging project. We deserved to be ranked as the lowest of the six groups, it was in my opinion the least enjoyable exhibition I have been a part of.

It was a valuable experience even though it was a frustrating one, my key judgements are the following:

  • I dearly wish we had been allowed to mix up the groups again from between the video project and the visualisation project, we had people feeling isolated for over six weeks, other people got to work with their friends for six weeks and certain groups were clearly stronger/more confident than others, mixing it up would have been fairer, we also had three people out of seven handing in an essay the same week as the exhibition so our work suffered because we couldn’t fully focus on it.
  • I genuinely believe some people in our group took the easy way out by working with friends and staying in their comfort zone rather than truly challenge themselves with this project, the end work suffered as a result.
  • Our exhibition would have been more successful if we had communicated better and had agreed to fully explore one idea on the data collection day instead of four individual idea (the downside is I highly doubt the litter project would have been chosen even though as it turned out the work could have been great)
  • Sadly even though an individual collected the best data they really struggled to be open minded about how to present it and a great visual display was lost due to being too narrow minded about how to present the data, sadly the data presented was dull, basic and very expensive for the return which was poorly thought out.
  • This was the worst exhibition I have been a part of, I have done many exhibitions on my own and even some collaboration pieces but this not a great example of teamwork or groupwork and this was after six weeks of working together, I have done exhibitions with people I known for less time and still achieved far more. The element of fun was really missing from this project, it was pretty ugly at times.

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Figure 9 – My display board up on the wall as part of the final exhibition (Lewis, 2017)

There was potentially a lot of value to be gained from this project, to work as a team with people of similar knowledge and skills much like the normality in a workplace. To problem solve and work together in a very short amount of time which is also quite realistic to the realities of working in design. I think a lot of the potential good from this project was lost by people being very concerned about how their work would be assessed and what grade would come from that, that moved the group from people wanting to work as a team but catalogue their involvement, to being an individual first and then working as a team secondary.

P – Plan

In terms of my course it’s probably made my life more stressful and complicated, we already had one group project under tight deadlines, so to do another right away with the same team is the last thing I wanted in all honesty, it’s very challenging to try and produce your best group work while ensuring you capture your own involvement in the aim of securing a good grade, securing a good grade is the part that is not at all relevant to the real world beyond this course so that’s what colours this experience as more frustrating that helpful. I usually enjoy the chance to exhibit work.

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Figure 10 – Our complete exhibiton piece captured here including the video on the imac (Lewis, 2017)

In terms of my future career I’m still undecided of which way I want to go but I’m not convinced I want to return the world of design agencies where I already have 18 months experience, I do enjoy exhibiting and I do generally enjoy working with people but in a more relaxed environment like in my former museum role. I’m still exploring but this project offered both positive and negative ideas about how I’d like my future career to progress.

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Figure 11 – A sketch of how I might fully utilise my board prior to the deadline, the idea was not used in the end (Lewis, 2017)

In terms of life generally, it made me a bit sad that I get along with over 40 people in my class but I have to work closely with for six weeks the only person to argue with me who I generally can’t along with, that’s very true to work but now how I enjoy living my life and it ruined my enjoyment of the creative process on this occasion.

I also would have enjoyed the exhibition far more if it had been an individual project or I had been able to choose only one or two others to work with at most, the groups felt too big and the work might have been more interesting with less people, more widespread ideas and more interesting outcomes, that would have been more fascinating.

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Figure 12: An unused digital illustration that would have sat raised on the lower half of my presentation board, unifying the group work and filling the negative space on my own presentation board (Lewis, 2017)

Luckily these insights won’t feature in the rest of my course, but in terms of the future, I do think I have to protect my own interests at the priority, my work suffered to try and bring the team together and at least If I had been selfish I could have been at least proud of what I accomplished but in this example that didn’t even happen. You can’t always work with your friends and it won’t always be easy. I think on this occasion I was more annoyed by the friends sticking together and playing it safe rather than working with the difficult individuals in the group. Difficult people is normal to encounter but close friendship groups in the workplace is far more discruptive to a good end result.

References:

All photographs and work by Robert Lewis (Myself)
(Also featured the rest of the work of my group known as Group 3)

RMIT University. (2010). Reflective Writing in Design. [online] Available at: https://www.dlsweb.rmit.edu.au/slc/studioKnowledgeObject/assets/studio_knowledge_object.pdf [Accessed 5 May 2017].

Study and Learning Centre. (2010). Reflective Writing: DIEP. [online] Available at: https://www.dlsweb.rmit.edu.au/lsu/content/2_assessmenttasks/assess_pdf/Reflective%20journal.pdf [Accessed 5 May 2017].

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