Mindful Designs, Wicked Problems, Data and Digital Stories

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

The initial shock and panic of the last few weeks has now settled into new routines of living; my new normal.  Within this new normal are the constant streams of COVID 19 data fed through the internet and the “wicked problems” that have arisen as part of this crisis. This data and the wicked problems both tell many stories and after this week’s reading and Ted talk, I wonder what story is being told and how many other stories many be embedded within the data shared or revealed through the solving of some of these impossible problems. I wonder about critical thinking when it comes to interpreting this data, approaching these problems and I wonder about how this data and these problems are shown to the public.

Wicked problems in design thinking”by Buchanan, R. (1992) and Rosling’ s (2016) Ted Talk “The best stats you have ever seen” both illustrated how there are multiple ways to approach a problem and multiple ways to show things. The way a problem is approached, the question one asks, may give the opportunity for many different answers. This does not mean one is right or wrong as the design and the problem being explored are different. However, it could be argued that any design problem, approach and answer only shows the answer to a particular problem and cannot always be transferred to a new problem, and it may only show a partial or singular view of any story/problem; thereby also potentially creating a solution to only one aspect of a wicked problem. It also shows that there are multiple ways to design something and that the solutions are often not linear or singular. In addition, Rosling’s presentation illuminated that data, surprisingly, is more than just fact and figures, more than just numbers; data talks, data shares stories. 

Rosling’s Ted talk video below illustrates very clearly how data can tell many stories, it’s a matter of knowing how to look at it. This in turn creates critical thinking as the designers of the data, or those who pull the data apart, use critical thinking when they explore the many ways data can be looked at. The data exposed in the video illustrates the many different stories that can be told.  In this moment I pause to think about digital stories.

I want to have a clear understanding of what digital stories are before progressing further. A classmate of mine created a blog post connected to this idea; this got me thinking further about what digital stories are.

Digistories defines digital stories as: 

A digital story is a personal event or experience made into a short piece of television or internet video. It is created by the storyteller without professional mediation. Participants are taught new skills to enable them to tell their story. They use mainly still images processed and compiled with software like Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Premiere, Final Cut Express or iMovie”

 It has also been defined by wikipedia and definitions.net as:

“Digital storytelling is a short form of digital media production that allows everyday people to share aspects of their life story. The media used may include the digital equivalent of film techniques, animation, stills, audio only, or any of the other forms of non-physical media which individuals can use to tell a story or present an idea.”


Both of these definitions could be further expanded to include data.  Within the context of data, the data shared within the Ted talk showed how it could be manipulated to tell a variety of different stories. This illustrates clearly how the data regarding the COVID virus, could be looked at in a variety of different ways to tell stories other than the main ones being communicated through the media. This also illustrates how critical thinking can lead to solving problems, problems illuminated through data, problems revealed though questioning, perhaps even wicked problems and how ultimately this can build new stories, stories that can be shared as digital stories.

Finally, I have included below, some of the resources and ideas both shared and discovered this week connected to both data and wicked problems that can be further explored as ways to create and critically examine, and to have students create and critically examine, a variety of data. This exploration may potentially lead to the design of new digital stories; digital stories told by students connected to their understanding and exploration of data. Perhaps the exploration of data, questioning, the exploration of design and the transferring of these understandings can help to develop approaches to solving “wicked problems” where students work in tandem with a variety of different approaches to solve them. Perhaps this is true development of 21st century skills; these are skills that students will need to successfully navigate the world as an adult; skills that may allow for solutions to the many “wicked problems” that continue to arise.

1.Designing Learning

2. Citizen Science

3. The Power of Data Analysis

4. Digital Timelines

5. GapMinder

6. #wickedproblems 

7. Catrien J.A.M Termeer, Art Dewulf & Robbert Biesbroek (2019) Policy and Society, 38:2, 167-179, DOI: 10.1080/14494035.2019.1617971




Buchanan, R. (1992). Wicked Problems in Design Thinking. Design Issues, 8(2), 5-21. doi:10.2307/1511637

Rosling, H. [TED]. (2006, February).The Best Stats You Have Ever Seen. [VIDEO]. Retrieved from URL https://www.ted.com/talks/hans_rosling_the_best_stats_you_ve_ever_seen?language=en

3 thoughts on “Mindful Designs, Wicked Problems, Data and Digital Stories

  • Interesting that both definitions of digital story appear to be non-fiction. One refers to “a personal event or experience” and the other says, “aspects of their life story”. Can digitals stories not be fictional?

    • That’s a great question! In my mind they should be able to be either non-fiction or fiction, but even now, after another quick google search, all of the definitions and examples are of personal non- fiction stories.

  • The idea of people solving problems through problem solving and critical thinking has always been a fact throughout history. It is interesting that recorded and new ways of thinking are becoming prevalent in the 21 century due to technology and how to approach new problems from different angles. People have so much access to information and how people use it can constantly change the perspective that we see that data.

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