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Using numbers to understand society

26 April 2013

Professor Emma Renold (second from right) with some of the school pupils

Professor Emma Renold (second from right) with some of the school pupils

In the first event of its kind, the School of Social Sciences (SOCSI) collaborated with the School of Planning and Geography (CPLAN) and the School of Journalism, Media and Cultural Studies (JOMEC) to show local sixth form students how numbers can be used to help better understand our society.

The ‘Infographics@Cardiff University’ day welcomed students from Pencoed, Glantaf, Mountain Ash and Llantwit Major schools who are studying Maths, Geography, Politics, Sociology, IT, History or Media at A-level.

The day started with some academic inspiration from three SOCSI academics who provided real-life research examples of how they have used statistics to help understand society, and to show how innovative multi-modal techniques can be used to interpret and present numerical data.

Dr Luke Sloan talked about his work on understanding the 2012 London Olympics using social media data. Dr Kate Moles explained how she had used audio-walking technology in local communities to enable residents to ‘map’ their neighbourhoods. Finally, Professor Emma Renold explained how she had used ‘participatory’ research to study children in care by getting them to make short films.

Dr Scott Orford mapping 2011 Census data

Dr Scott Orford mapping 2011 Census data

The next part of the day involved using real data from the 2011 Census. With guidance from Dr Scott Orford (CPLAN), the students used Quantum GIS software to create visual maps allowing them to see and interpret patterns in the data.

Finally, Dr Jenny Kidd from JOMEC introduced the students to the notion of ‘data journalism’. The students used infographics software to help make sense of statistical data and learn how to explain messages to the general public using visual representations of key research findings.

Dr Ian Jones, Student Engagement Officer at the School of Social Sciences, said: “We hope that this new ‘engagement partnership’ between the three Schools in the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, will enable more innovative events like the Infographics Day to be held in the future to a wide range of interested parties.”  

The event was carried out in conjunction with the University's Widening Access team, who address the recruitment, retention and progression of students from a wide variety of groups traditionally under-represented in higher education. The team carry out over 25 events each academic year, and visits over 130 Year 10 & 11 groups throughout Wales. All of the activities are designed to raise aspirations and encourage pupils to continue on to higher education.

Dr Jenny Kidd showing pupils how to create infographics

Dr Jenny Kidd showing pupils how to create infographics

Some comments from the students:

“I never realised how important infographics could be before coming to this event.”

“It was nice to talk to members of the university staff and I enjoyed learning about the GIS software.”

“I enjoyed the day very much – very interesting.”

“The journalism session was incredibly engaging and showed an interesting use of data.”

“The talk by Dr Luke Sloan was very good because I never realised the impact social media can have on events.”