Ph.D. Defense by Susan J. Robinson

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Dissertation Defense - Susan J. Robinson

Storied Numbers: Enhancing Public Opinion Practices Through Digital Media Affordances

9:30am - 11:30am, December 2, 2014
TSRB 113 EGL (85 5th ST NE Room 113, Atlanta, GA 30308)


Alexandra Mazalek, Chair
School of Literature, Communication and Culture

Carl DiSalvo
School of Literature, Communication and Culture

Jay David Bolter
School of Literature, Communication and Culture

Glorianna Davenport
MIT Media Lab
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Charles T. Salmon
Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information
NanYang Technological University


The use of opinion polls and surveys is an enduring feature of political and social sciences practices.  As technologies of representation, surveys comprised of closed-ended items do not enable people to express their views in rich qualitative ways or to challenge the framing of issues. The data collected subsequently constrains the types of analysis and presentation possible, including the inclusion of insights regarding nuanced differences among diverse publics formed in response to issues.

This dissertation presents research on the acceptability and feasibility of using the affordances of digital media to enhance public opinion practices through a) the tight coupling of closed-ended questions with rich media using mobile devices for data gathering and b), the presentation of the resulting media-rich dataset using tangible tabletop interaction for data visualization and data storytelling.  Theoretical constructs from relevant disciplines were used to inform the design and evaluation of proposed technological interventions and the analysis of the data gathered.

Methods used in the design and testing of the interventions included a) formative research with users during iterative design exercises; b) a field study of an experimental mobile survey, the SayWhyPoll, with local opinion leaders and members of the general public; and c) the study of a tangible tabletop presentation system, "Tangible Anchoring, with media professionals in a laboratory setting.  Findings from the research overall support claims regarding the feasibility and acceptability of technologies proposed while raising questions for future research.


  • Workflow Status: Published
  • Created By: Danielle Ramirez
  • Created: 11/20/2014
  • Modified By: Fletcher Moore
  • Modified: 10/07/2016

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