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shared thoughts and conversations about choice
Art-based Research + Fine Arts Data Visualization

What does choice look like when we think about women’s reproductive issues? What does it mean to make a choice, who chooses what, and how do we decide? Rooted in Arts-Based Research (ABR), this animated data visualization serves as both an homage to historic women artists, combining fine arts with empirical research methods, rendering visible discourses about women’s reproductive issues. 

The featured portraits by Diane Arbus, Lotte Jacobi, Dora Maar, Judy Dater, and Barbara Kruger inspiration, mirror the feminist revolution that began ripening between both world wars into the 1970s and beyond. May this dynamic artwork inspire and engage all women on these timely themes for future generations. 

Shared Thoughts and Conversations about Choice | Chicago Data, 2022

Ellen Sandor & (art)n: Diana Torres, Azadeh Gholizadeh

M. Sylvia Weintraub Ph.D

Data Visualization video installation

Shared Thoughts and Conversations about Choice | Houston Data, 2022

Ellen Sandor & (art)n: Diana Torres, Azadeh Gholizadeh

M. Sylvia Weintraub Ph.D

Data Visualization video installation

For this project, we created a survey that asked viewers to indicate:

  1. Which word they felt best describes the nature of choice in relation to women’s reproductive rights (“Freedom”, “Responsibility”, “Life”, “Private”, “God”, or “Other”

  2. Where they acquire their information about the topic from (“Social Media and Media”, “Internet Search Engines”, “Personal Experience”, “Religious Institutions” or “Other"

To collect the data (i.e., viewers’ answers), we printed stickers with QR codes that link to two identical versions of the survey, one for Houston, TX, and one for Chicago, IL. After we collected responses from participants during the height of the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision in both cities, we used the responses to create animated data visualizations of viewers’ answers.

Background (data visualization & social justice):

As disciplines, art and science have long been in conversation, and arts-based research, which uses fine arts methods as tools of inquiry in scholarly research endeavors, is one example of a manifestation of this transdisciplinary approach today. Recently, the work of American sociologist, socialist, and historian W.E.B. Du Bois, a pioneer in early data visualization, has been recognized in the art world for his use of pure color abstraction to illuminate social justice issues for people of color in the late 1800s and early 1900s. His extraordinarily innovative work provides examples of ways in which visual images can afford new comprehensions of our world, using a combination of art and science. Inspired by Du Bois’ efficacy at using data visualization to address social issues for people of color, our work aims to use this method to study and evaluate issues related to women’s reproductive rights in this contemporary moment.

Methods (content of animation):

For our animation, we used numeric or quantified data (e.g., the total number of people who indicated “Private” for the word association question, or “Personal Experience” for the information source question) to showcase the data in diverse ways. We also showed the data as text or qualitative data, which was used to establish the form of a figure traversing space. Lastly, The animation is visually entangled with photographic images of female bodies created by female artists. The material artworks featured in the animation are part of the Richard and Ellen Sandor Family Collection, and serve as an homage to these female artists’ contributions to the art world. The medium of animation was chosen to show the data in transition, as moving image. It is important to note that the artwork is participatory in that the audience completes the work by contributing data. As such, this work functions as a living snapshot of trends in ways in which we think about the nature of choice in relation to women’s reproductive rights, and how we come to inform our view.