ART/DATA/HEALTH: Data as creative material for health and wellbeing

Lead Research Organisation: University of Brighton
Department Name: School of Media


ART/ DATA/ HEALTH creates an innovative and interdisciplinary process that offers disadvantaged groups and the public new tools, at the intersections of data science with art practice, to approach two key issues in healthy aging and prevention: digital skills and health literacy. There are three main reasons for bringing cultural participation and digital inclusion together for health and wellbeing:

First, there is strong evidence showing that participation in the creative arts can help promote well-being and health in communities, and can be particularly beneficial for disadvantaged groups (in terms of age, disability, income and unemployment). As technologies change, there are new questions that art and humanities research can help us address in relation to health and wellbeing. Arts-based inquiry that involves health data analysis can be an innovative intervention for public health projects.

Second, critical health literacy is considered key to empowerment, as it not only improves people's capacity to use health information, but also helps them gain greater control over life events. But as health promotion and communication moves to a digitised era, health literacy today includes the capacity to efficiently use digital health technologies and being able to critically analyse information presented online. In Britain, 12.6 million people lack digital skills and they are most likely to suffer from poor health, while in most cases they also belong in disadvantaged social groups.

Third, today scientific data and statistics of all sorts are being used in infographics, data journalism, design and art in order to create meaning from the deluge of big data. Data is considered the material of our times. Data-based art can help raise awareness about the ethical, social and cultural issues of personalised medicine, but is however still missing from public health, community-based initiatives.

This Rutherford/Inter-disciplinary Interface Innovation Fellowship uses health data as the source of experiential stories and as the source material for creative expression. In a series of exploratory workshops, a community of artists, academics and members of disadvantaged population will use a combination of creative media, storytelling and data analytics to explore evidence around health in their local communities. They will co-produce creative work that takes various forms (such as 3D-printed data sculptures, sound art and data murals around the city), which is inspired by both anonymised personal and statistical health data.

The project will contribute to the development of new theorisation and practice in the emerging field of data studies, creative arts and health in three ways:

- It seeks to explore the new opportunities that are offered in data analysis and visualisation for developing participatory communication strategies for health and wellbeing in the era of big data and personalised digital health. Through innovative artwork that translates obscure statistical data into actionable health information, it will provide a unique new experience for audiences.

- Secondly, it aims to examine how art and creativity can enable health literacy and digital skills amongst socioeconomically disadvantaged population to reduce health inequalities. Based on the premise that people's encounters with personal data help self-discovery, sense-making and storytelling, the project will contribute to a new approach to understanding healthy ageing, which involves digital and cultural participation.

- Finally, it intends to assess how a participatory arts/data interface can benefit public health and how the combination of digital inclusion and cultural participation can help people stay healthy, active and productive as they age. By drawing on lessons from art for health initiatives, it will provide knowledge on improving public health communication strategies and on designing engaging art interventions in the care sector.

Planned Impact

The project aims to create an innovative interface between art, health and data science in order to advance participatory strategies for health communication, and to enhance the capacity of disadvantaged people to handle health information and to use digital technologies, in order to adopt healthier behaviours. Hence, the outcomes will advance the digital and health literacy of the public; will provide a new process for artists, designers and the creative industry who wish to transform data into artform; and will develop new participatory and data-driven approaches to health promotion within the care sector. The beneficiaries of these results will principally belong in the following main groups: 1) Disadvantaged communities and the general public; 2) Art sector and creative industries; and 3) Care and third sector.

1) Disadvantaged communities and the wider public
Working in partnership with the Public Health team of Brighton & Hove City Council and the Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), the project will engage people who have been identified as socioeconomically disadvantaged, potentially of older age, poor health and also difficult to reach. For these groups, participation in the training and co-production workshops will increase their confidence with using creative material to narrate health-related experiences; their comfort in using digital health technologies; capacity to understand health information and statistical data; social and critical skills that prevent isolation. The project will enhance the public's knowledge of healthy ageing and prevention, as well as awareness of the relevance of health data and statistics, through exposure in the Brighton Fringe and Digital Festival.

2) Art sector and creative industries
The commissioned artists will benefit from new professional practice knowledge (using data as creative material, incl. management, analysis and storage of data) and increased exposure to their practice. Research outcomes will directly benefit the partners Brighton Fringe & Digital Festival by expanding their programme, offering new experiences to audiences, and gaining from the exploitation of new content. The wider creative sector will benefit from greater awareness of audience perceptions about experimental art and emerging technologies, which ultimately helps them offer artwork and services that enhance the lives of those who use them.

3) Care and third sector
The project will offer solid evidence on the benefits of participatory arts-based, data-based health communication and health promotion, of relevance to policy-oriented research. It will increase public awareness of the value of statistical and other health data for prevention, health and wellbeing, including self-tracking using digital health technologies, leading to better health outcomes. It will improve professional practices by enriching them with cultural participation and data-based art; and will increase awareness of the cultural and social aspects of health.

The project will build close collaborations with the beneficiaries of the research in order to achieve the short and longer term (2+ years) impacts. News and updates will be disseminated through the project web page (maintained for 10 years after project end), the collaborator's and partners' webpages and publications. The findings of the research will be presented in an open access printed and online publication for wide educational dissemination and use in GP surgeries, art galleries and educational institutions. The creative outputs (3D prints, mural and sound file) based on citizen-led data generation, data analysis and visualisation produced by artists and participants through this research will get exposure through relevant organisations' publications and events. The training resources that will be developed for the workshops will be made available after the project completion, in conferences, project website and in dissemination material to encourage take up.


10 25 50