Dr Tom Blount

Who are you and what is you role in Data Stories?

I’m Tom Blount, a new(ish) research fellow in the WAIS lab at Southampton – my research interests cover game design, narrative systems, human-data interaction, crowdsourcing, and social argumentation.

Why are you part of Data Stories and what do you hope to achieve?

In DataStories, my role is looking at using interactive visualisations to drive engagement with data. What is it that makes staring at a spreadsheet dull, but playing a puzzle game interesting and memorable? How can we leverage this to make data more engaging both in specific scenarios, and more generally?

My previous work examined discourse and debate on the social web, and there’s a lot of overlap here: how do people use data to support their arguments online, and how effective is it at persuading people? Ideally, it’d be great to see the impact of new types of data visualisations on online debates.

Can you tell us an example of a data story that you care about?

In the so-called “post-truth environment” that has recently become prominent in the media and politics, people are becoming more and more entrenched in their beliefs. The answer to this isn’t going to be as simple as shouting “You’re wrong!” at people we disagree with: we need to look carefully at what it takes for data to change someone’s mind.