Anna Feigenbaum

Associate Professor in Communication and Digital Media at Bournemouth Univesrity PI, UKRI/AHRC Project: COVID-19 Comics & Publich Health I am a writer, researcher, teacher and workshop leader specialising in data storytelling for civic good. From digging into dusty archives to data visualising absent deaths, I am drawn to the difficult, the messy, the ethically challenging questions that exist around the edges of debates over how we tell stories with science and data. As a consultant and trainer, I collaborate with charities, NGOs, Public Health organisations, investigative journalists and other researchers to explore empathetic and effective ways to tell data stories. I believe that it is often those without access to big budgets and fancy tools that hold the data stories we most need to change the world.

Our AHRC team bring insights on Covid Comics for data literacy to the 2021 Digital Inclusion Policy and Research Conference

On September 14, 2021 Dr. Anna Feigenbaum, Dr. Alexandra Alberda, Shannon McDavitt and Professor Julian McDougall will present findings from our AHRC project at the Digital Inclusion Policy and Research Conference. The DIPRC 2021 international conference brings together policymakers and academic researchers to explore the effects of the pandemic on digital literacy—and of digital literacy on the pandemic. Our team will be discussing the role that comics can play in fostering data literacy around public health messages.  

Image of two paths and person reflecting on impacts of social distancing
Image from Social Dynamics of Post-Lockdown Life illustrated by Alexandra Alberda. Scripted by Yazan Abbas, Alexandra Alberda and Anna Feigenbaum.

During COVID-19 our pandemic lives became deeply entwined with health data and data visualizations.​ From instructional hand-washing infographics, to calls to ‘flatten the curve,’ data visualisations were telling us how to live, and predicting our possible futures. How we make sense of this data and the visualisation of public health, and our own meaning-making practices in this information environment, raises important questions for what it now means to be literate.  

Alongside authorial information graphics produced by the world’s biggest health organisations and newspapers, citizens and artists also leveraged data visualisation conventions to create their own artistic representations of public health messages, often making them more approachable, accessible and relatable.  

Tackling everything from understanding the significance of rising R numbers, to appropriate methods of mask wearing, to being on guard for misinformation, these amateur ‘data comics’ were shared across social media to thousands of followers each day. At their best, these comics amplified public health messages, increased information comprehension, helped prompt behaviour change and foster social empathy.  

In this presentation we share preliminary findings from our UKRI/AHRC COVID-19 Rapid Response grant ‘Comics in the time of COVID-19’ drawing lessons from a sample of over 15,000 coded web-comics distributed on Instagram between March 2020 and March 2021. Our analysis looks both at artistic and storytelling elements in these web-comics, as well as at approaches to health, media and information literacies in order to inform best practice among a range of key stakeholders.  

Supported by this large-scale, evidence-based analysis, we argue that integrating data and comics in ways that humanise health  experiences can be a powerful tool for enhancing public health communications, understanding the literacy repertories citizens now need to interpret media, information and data and the benefits of this new knowledge for improving health equity.  

Anna Feigenbaum Administrator
Associate Professor in Communication and Digital Media

I am a writer, researcher, teacher and workshop leader specialising in data storytelling for civic good. From digging into dusty archives to data visualising absent deaths, I am drawn to the difficult, the messy, the ethically challenging questions that exist around the edges of debates over how we tell stories with science and data. As a consultant and trainer, I collaborate with charities, NGOs, Public Health organisations, investigative journalists and other researchers to explore empathetic and effective ways to tell data stories. I believe that it is often those without access to big budgets and fancy tools that hold the data stories we most need to change the world.

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BU research explores the use of comic artistry and storytelling in public health information

Research at Bournemouth University is looking at the effectiveness of comic artistry and storytelling in the sharing of public health messaging.

Funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) the project will catalogue and analyse comic-style public health graphics, specifically those created during the Covid-19 pandemic, and seek to make recommendations on how the comic medium can be effective at delivering public health messaging to help drive behaviour change.

The idea for the research began as Dr Anna Feigenbaum, the lead researcher, and her colleagues Alexandra Alberda and William Proctor shared clever comic-style graphics with one another that had been created and shared on social media about Covid-19. These single, sharable, comic-style graphics blend the artistry and storytelling of comics with the Covid-19 messaging we have seen throughout the pandemic.

Dr Feigenbaum, an Associate Professor within the Faculty of Media and Communication at Bournemouth University, said, “What we saw from these comic graphics was the way that the artistry and storytelling combined to share messages in a more emotive and interesting way. This built on work we were already doing on how public health messaging could utilise this medium to make their own messaging more engaging and even lead to better behavioural outcomes.”

José Blázquez, the project’s postdoctoral researcher, has started work in collating over 1200 examples of comic-style Covid-19 messaging with the aim of understanding what makes them so compelling, and how this genre of communication could be further used to create what the project’s research illustrator, Alexandra Alberda, calls an “accessible, approachable and relatable” style of messaging when communicating important public health messages. The team aims to build a database that archives these comics, including information about their artistic and storytelling techniques, audience engagement, circulation, and what implications they may have for the sharing of health messaging in the future.

The final outcomes will be shared as a report and an illustrated set of good practice guidelines. Results will also be shared in the team’s edited collection Comics in the Time of COVID-19 and a special journal issue for Comics Grid. It is hoped these guidelines will inform public health communicators, as well as graphic designers and educators.

The team has even created their own Covid-19 web-comics, published by Nightingale on Medium

Dr Feigenbaum continued, “Data comics are on a real upsurge as people look to make sense of the world through data visualisation, and there are some wonderful examples from amateur artists who have been incredibly clever and creative in taking what are, essentially, public health messages, and turning them into emotive comic-style stories.

“These sharable comic graphics are engaging and informed – there is a lot to learn here about the way we make sense of the world and how this genre could help us to see the communication of important messages in a whole new light. What we’re researching now could be seen as best practice in years to come.”

In addition to the main team of Dr. Feigenbaum, Dr. Blázquez and Alexandra Alberda, this research will be conducted with Co-investigators Dr. Billy Proctor, Dr. Sam Goodman and Professor Julian McDougall, along with advisory partners Public Health Dorset, the Graphic Medicine Collective, Information Literacy Group and Comics Grid. 

More information about the project will soon be available at www.covidcomics.org


This post originally appeared on the Bournemouth University website.

Anna Feigenbaum Administrator
Associate Professor in Communication and Digital Media

I am a writer, researcher, teacher and workshop leader specialising in data storytelling for civic good. From digging into dusty archives to data visualising absent deaths, I am drawn to the difficult, the messy, the ethically challenging questions that exist around the edges of debates over how we tell stories with science and data. As a consultant and trainer, I collaborate with charities, NGOs, Public Health organisations, investigative journalists and other researchers to explore empathetic and effective ways to tell data stories. I believe that it is often those without access to big budgets and fancy tools that hold the data stories we most need to change the world.

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Dr. Anna Feigenbaum delivers keynotes on Data Storytelling and COVID-19

Sketchnote illustration of Dr. Feigenbaum’s keynote address.

On The 27th of November 2020, Dr. Anna Feigenbaum presented a keynote presentation at the Data Storytelling Symposium hosted by the Data Stories project at Kings College London. She delivered her keynote address on Humanising Data Stories to a webinar audience of over 400 registered participants. Arising from work co-created with colleagues and PhD candidate Alexandra Alberda, the presentation explored techniques for telling more empathetic and effective stories both with and about data. Highlighting the ‘statistical chaos’ of COVID-19, Dr. Feigenbaum’s presentation showcased both her own comics collaborations with research illustrator Alexandra Alberda, as well as work of other comics artists and illustrators, both amateur and professional.  This keynote was part of a series of talks and workshop Dr. Feigenbaum and Alberda have given over the past few months, including participation in the ESRC Festival of Social Science and a keynote at BU’s EdD conference, as well as international conferences IGNCC and ISPIM and most recently the Coronavirus, statistical chaos and the news event co-hosted by Bournemouth University, the Royal Statistical Society and the Association of British Science Writers on December 4, 2020.

Illustration by Alexandra Alberda (comic script by Anna Feigenbaum, Alexandra Alberda and Yazan Abbas)

Dr. Feigenbaum joined a prestigious line-up of science journalists and academic experts, sharing pilot research that forms part of her upcoming UKRI/AHRC COVID-19 Rapid Response grant project on ‘COVID-19 Comics’. This project aims to enhance the role that comics can play in public health messaging through an analysis of the content, circulation patterns and social media engagement of webcomics about COVID-19. Dr. Feigenbaum leads a team of BU colleagues and partners as PI, alongside Alexandra Alberda, Professor Julian McDougall, Dr. William Proctor and Dr. Sam Goodman. Project partners are Public Health Dorset, the Information Literacy Network and the Graphic Medicine Collective. To find out more about this work or about hosting a data storytelling workshop for your project team, contact afeigenbaum@bournemouth.ac.uk.

Originally published at: BU Research Blog

Anna Feigenbaum Administrator
Associate Professor in Communication and Digital Media

I am a writer, researcher, teacher and workshop leader specialising in data storytelling for civic good. From digging into dusty archives to data visualising absent deaths, I am drawn to the difficult, the messy, the ethically challenging questions that exist around the edges of debates over how we tell stories with science and data. As a consultant and trainer, I collaborate with charities, NGOs, Public Health organisations, investigative journalists and other researchers to explore empathetic and effective ways to tell data stories. I believe that it is often those without access to big budgets and fancy tools that hold the data stories we most need to change the world.

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Recording of Dr. Pirtle’s talk on COVID-19 and Racial Capitalism now available

On October 27th we were honoured to host Dr. Whitney Pirtle, whose ground-breaking work on health inequalities and COVID-19 has helped set the agenda for debate and discussion on the impacts of the pandemic on BAME communities. In her presentation Dr. Pirtle introduced key concepts for better addressing health inequities in both our research and practice. Insights from this talk will be brought forward into our research activity discussion around Health, Science and Data Communications, being coordinated by Dr. Lyle Skains here at BU.

You can listen to Dr. Pirtle’s presentation recorded on zoom.

To learn more about Dr. Pirtle and her work you can visit her website and read a copy of her paper on which this presentation is based.

Originally published at: BU Research Blog

Anna Feigenbaum Administrator
Associate Professor in Communication and Digital Media

I am a writer, researcher, teacher and workshop leader specialising in data storytelling for civic good. From digging into dusty archives to data visualising absent deaths, I am drawn to the difficult, the messy, the ethically challenging questions that exist around the edges of debates over how we tell stories with science and data. As a consultant and trainer, I collaborate with charities, NGOs, Public Health organisations, investigative journalists and other researchers to explore empathetic and effective ways to tell data stories. I believe that it is often those without access to big budgets and fancy tools that hold the data stories we most need to change the world.

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