2018-2019 Dean’s Research Fellows: Data Storytelling, Visualization and Communication

Jennifer Gradecki, Assistant Professor, Art + Design

Meg Heckman, Assistant Professor, Journalism

Ang Li, Assistant Professor, Architecture

Dietmar Offenhuber, Art + Design and Public Policy


Traces and Evidence: The Materiality of Public Controversies

This research team is preparing a public exhibition that explores the role of evidence and practices of evidence construction – both physical and digital – in public controversies and civic life. The exhibition will take place in a Boston-area venue and feature four case studies focused on climate change, preservation, government transparency and crisis storytelling. Each component will be rooted in the individual academic discipline, but the project will illuminate common themes around memory, community and social practices with the goal of creating overlapping experiential narratives.


One case study (Gradecki) will take the form of an interactive installation about the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Automated Case Support (ACS) information technology infrastructure. The project will be built using information from FOIA files and academic articles. Another case study (Heckman) will reconstruct online news coverage of the April 1995 bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City. This project will use interviews with the journalists involved to document their work and better understand its place in media history and public memory. A third case study (Li) will examine the ways in which monumental public works projects serve as catalysts for local preservation movements through their ability to spatialize archival processes that unfold at the scale of the city. This project purposes to retrace the public memory of the Central Artery/Tunnel construction that took place in Boston between the years of 1991 and 2007, focusing in particular on how the construction sequence was documented through archaeological digs and aerial photographic surveys. A final case study (Offenhuber) investigates the concept of sensory accountability. Climate change and environmental pollution are complex phenomena that are in many ways inaccessible to direct human experience. This may be because their temporal and spatial scales are too large, their agents are too small or too entangled with other confounding factors, or because they are measured through synthetic indicators based on computational models that are difficult to visualize and contextualize with sensory experience. The case study consists of a documentary part discussing such practices, and a concrete artwork exploring new ways of making environmental changes in the City of Boston visible.