CHIP: Contextual and Historical Influences in Psychology by Stardotstar
This data driven research tool was commissioned by The Open University to help academics in the field of psychology to explore different perspectives that exist within psychology methods as well as the different methods used in psychological enquiry. Chip takes data from an old, outdated academic interactive database (EpoCH) and reimagines over 30,000 lines of data, to create a playful research tool for use by students within the OU Exploring Psychology online course. The challenge in building this tool was to take this large database of content and find a way of representing it in a beautiful, engaging and simple to understand visualisation which inspires exploration to find new links which highlight psychology narratives. We produced a psychology Starfield which could be explored in a number of different ways to unveil links between different contexts, perspectives and methods to create an acutely detailed story of how the psychology discourse found it’s way into the present day state. The Starfield; a plotted graph across an X axis timeline, mapped the links between different researchers and academic traditions of understanding, to form a beautiful, colourful galaxy of information. Colour was a key mechanic in differentiating types of information. We also used a variety of node size visualisations to allow users to see how prevalent each node was (ie. how many links it has). This iPad first experience was designed to be fully responsive and works intuitively across all devices; iPad, laptop, desktop and even modern mobile browsers can support the tool. For the mobile version we had to reassess the information architecture as the Starfield was too small to decipher on such a small screen, so we designed a solution where all of the nodes are still available in list form. We worked closely with a team of academic researchers to make sure that all of the data we needed to tell the most accurate story, was available, correct and up to date. As the field of psychological understanding is developing so rapidly, we needed to be able to make the database updatable and so created an easy to use, bespoke Content Management System (CMS) and also a nominations form which allows users to suggest additions to the administrators, which in turn will be discussed with a board of prestigious specialists in the field to decide if they are prolific enough to be added to the database. To improve the discovery aspect of the tool we thought it would be helpful to create more editorially lead narratives, which visually unfold as you follow the narrative along its path. The Narrative function allows a story to animate across the Starfield, explaining each connection as they unfold across the timeline. Chip is live and already being used by students and lecturers across the Open University and has been celebrated as one of the most useful tools of its kind by the industry. We wish there was room for quotes!