What can go wrong? Exploring racial equity dataviz and deficit thinking, with Pieta Blakely.

Link: https://3iap.com/what-can-go-wrong-racial-equity-data-visualization-deficit-thinking-VV8acXLQQnWvvg4NLP9LTA/



For anti-racist dataviz, our most effective tool is context. The way that data is framed can make a very real impact on how it’s interpreted. For example, this case study from the New York Times shows two different framings of the same economic data and how, depending on where the author starts the X-Axis, it can tell 2 very different — but both accurate — stories about the subject.

As Pieta previously highlighted, dataviz in spaces that address race / ethnicity are sensitive to “deficit framing.” That is, when it’s presented in a way that over-emphasizes differences between groups (while hiding the diversity of outcomes within groups), it promotes deficit thinking (see below) and can reinforce stereotypes about the (often minoritized) groups in focus.

In a follow up study, Eli and Cindy Xiong (of UMass’ HCI-VIS Lab) confirmed Pieta’s arguments, showing that even “neutral” data visualizations of outcome disparities can lead to deficit thinking (and therefore stereotyping) and that the way visualizations are designed can significantly impact these harmful tendencies.

Author(s): Eli Holder, Pieta Blakely

Publication Date: 2 Aug 2022

Publication Site: 3iap