Perspective Media: Personalised Video Storytelling for Data Engagement

An unprecedented amount of data exists about our lives, environments and the people we share them with. The devices (e.g. phones, smart thermostats and even cars) and organisations (e.g. councils, supermarkets) we interact with on a daily basis, record and store ever more information about things we do and care about. By empowering large numbers of people to access and interpret this data, we can transform the way we understand and make decisions about key aspects of our lives (e.g. health and energy use) and have a greater say in how we are treated by the government and other groups. 

We can access an increasing amount of this data by downloading it from our devices or other places like our local council's website. However, being able to get data does not necessarily mean we are able to understand it. Interpreting raw data files requires special software and techniques that most of us are not trained to use. Websites and apps that let us access and browse data in more accessible forms like graphs and infographics can help many people, but still are not right for everyone. Some people do not have the educational background needed to understand these forms of presentation, and others struggle to interpret what the facts and trends they show mean in the context of their lives. Equally importantly, many of us will not find seeking out and browsing data displayed in these ways an enjoyable and enriching way to spend our time - and might miss out on benefits of understanding our data as a result.

The Perspective Media project will pioneer a new way for presenting data to the public that a large and diverse section of the population will be able to, and equally crucially, want to use. We propose that this can be achieved by creating personalised video stories that tell us how our data relates to our lives and the people around us. We call this new form Perspective Media. Imagine a documentary about climate change that uses a personalised narrative structure and graphics based on data from your smart meter to show specific and achievable ways to improve your carbon footprint. Building on the skilled craft of video storytelling (e.g. from TV) to present a personalised perspective on data will allow us to provide an easier route for many people to understand how large and complex data sources relate to their lives. Basing our approach on a highly popular media format like video, with a diverse range of genres, will mean that large numbers of people from different backgrounds will enjoy using it to engage with their data.

Current ways of making video content assume that stories are fixed and linear, with the same information shown to everyone in the same order. Perspective Media, on the other hand, will show each viewer a personalised story about their data. For this reason, new ways of telling video stories that respond to data will need to be developed. These new approaches will, in turn, require new tools and technologies for creating content and delivering it to viewers. The aim of this research is to lay the foundations for these developments by:

  1.  investigating a range of techniques for presenting data in personalised video story form;
  2.  analysing the processes and tools that are currently used to make video stories to see how they need to be changed and extended; and
  3.  exploring how users experience video stories that are personalised to their data, and whether they truly offer a more inclusive and enjoyable way for people to engage with data.

We will achieve this aim by bringing together people with expertise in media production and data analytics with technology designers, to create prototypes of personalised video stories based on data. By analysing these prototypes, and how they are made and received by audiences, we will inform future research into production tools and technologies for Perspective Media and encourage the growth of a community of people in the media industry who create it.

The Perspective Media project is funded by an EPSRC First Grant (EP/R010919/1). Further details of this funding can be found at: