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The University of Southampton
Web Science Institute

Big Data Engagement at the Farnborough Air Show (20-21/7/2018) and the Country File Roadshow 4-5/8/2018)

Published: 16 August 2018
loom bands as data points
Loom bands used to represent different data points on a 'data ball'

A small team of Web Science students participated in an engagement activity with Dr Kate Lyle around Big Data awareness at both the Farnborough Air Show and the Country File Roadshow this summer.

The stands at both events attracted a huge number of the tens of thousands of visitors on each day at these popular festivals. Students Jo Dixon, Sarah Hewitt, Johanna Walker and Clare Walsh worked with Kate to develop ideas for two hands-on activities to help people to visualise the process of creating, sharing and processing data. Visitors were encouraged to stop at the stand with a themed selfie-booth attraction, which proved popular with younger visitors. We talked participants through the data they would share if they posted the photo on the internet by creating a ‘data ball’, with different coloured loom bands representing different data points. We also created a ‘data string board’ which consisted of a board with hooks representing different online spaces.  We asked participants to wrap a string around the hooks to illustrate where they have given away data online in the past 24hrs. The activities were very successful in providing a springboard to talk about some of the key issues in data monitoring, such as where and how their data might be used.

An important outcome of the event was greater understanding of how much the general public know about data. The purpose of the event was both to explain some of the key issues, but also to gather information on how strong awareness is among the general public. It appears that academic researchers in the field of Big Data are very much ahead of the general public in terms of understanding what data might be collected, and who they might be sharing it with. It also proved the point that public and engagement and data collection can be fun!

The results will be produced and disseminated in a report by Dr Lyle as part of the RAEng Ingenious Award funded project. 


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‘data ball’
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'data string board’
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University of Southampton display stand
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