Understanding Well-being Data

chapter 9 Understanding

9 Understanding

People want to better understand well-being and data—both separately and together. Others need to consider understanding differently. Arguably data should improve knowledge of good and bad well-being and reveal how to apply this information to improve societies. Understanding means more than knowledge, including a shared understanding of how to do something (like a method). Crucially, it also means empathy. This chapter presents academic and everyday perspectives from research on how people understand data and when data are a barrier to understanding and well-being. Context matters: where data come from, who these are for and about, where they go and for what purpose. Without acknowledging the limits in capacity for understanding, the ‘What Next?’ question cannot be addressed for well-being.

9.1Understanding, well-being and data

We started this book with a preface: a personal note on why and how it came about. This included reflections on some of my experiences of coming to understand data and well-being—not only my direct experiences, of course, but my observations of people I know and have met, and how they interact with data issues and well-being issues. I argued […]

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9.2The case for understanding in data

In 2018, I began a large-scale qualitative research project to understand data and diversity in the cultural sector. More specifically, Arts Council England (ACE)((ACE is a non-departmental public body (NDPB) and the largest funder of the arts in England. ACE wanted to introduce a measure of social mobility or class inequality to its data-monitoring processes. I was asked to conduct […]

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9.3Data uses as barriers to understanding

Beyond the arguments I have just made about how a lack of understanding can lead to bad data practices that are bad for well-being, I also argue that they lead to bad data. If people cannot answer the questions in a survey for practical, personal or political reasons, or because they feel uncomfortable that they do not know enough about […]

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9.4Following the data: how we have come to understand well-being data in this book

We have covered a number of different understandings of well-being and data in this book, as well as considered their impact on, and relevance to, culture and society. We have identified how ideas of well-being differ and transcend time, place, culture and religion. We have encountered how people feel about well-being in their everyday life, and projects to try and […]

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