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Data Semiotics: patterns, stories and culture

Firstly, let me tell you what Data Semiotics is: it is a framework that joins data analytics, people’s stories and cultural analysis to extract meaning from numbers. It models data, deconstructs people’s narratives and decodes culture. It has been developed with a grounding in our method-neutral ethos and has become our approach to data analysis.

It all started a couple of years back, but the framework was crystallised when on a project last year we were asked to create a quantitative algorithm to help direct people to films that best suited their interests, experiences and emotions.

The algorithm was part of the registration process for a cultural & artistic festival, where the audience would be given a list of suitable films drawn from their responses to some questions, rather than having the chance to select the films freely.

It was a unique project and had everything Data Semiotics is made of: numbers, human complexity and cultural awareness. We started the project by watching all of the films to be shown in the festival, ran 19 focus groups and spoke to 172 participants, measuring reactions with a wide variety of qual and quant techniques.

After this first phase, we learnt that affinity with these types of films could only be found in the roots of past experiences and core beliefs of the film-viewer, leading us to develop an analytical model we validated in a quantitative stage. Using the data collected, we created a series of equations that captured and simplified – as much as possible – the human complexity present in the reactions to the films.

With this project, we started our Data Semiotics journey of exploration, imagination and creation. Today, it is an approach that helps us articulate both the causes and meaning behind data results. It has enabled us to be more fluid and creative, and was the fundamental trigger for our adoption of new lenses of data analysis.

Data Semiotics is a journey that is inspired by people’s stories: it is shaped by a cultural awareness that becomes a lens to unlock patterns, trends and data. It is the primary framework we use to extract meaning and cultural significance from numbers.

We would be delighted to discuss it with you. For more information, please contact me.


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