Starting last fall, a new project between between TASCHA, the Tableau Foundation, Worldreader, and the UW DataLab has been using big data analysis and visualization to unlock stories about mobile reading patterns across the globe. This dataset is particularly interesting to TASCHA, as we specialize in understanding how people are using new technological systems – such as mobile devices – to gain access to information that can change their lives. TASCHA has also used the project to explore exciting new computational methods and data visualization strategies.
The mobile reading data for the project comes from Worldreader, which is a US-, Europe-, and Africa-based non-profit organization dedicated to creating a world where everyone can be a reader through increased access to digital books. Approximately 6 million people, primarily in Sub-Saharan Africa and India, have used the Worldreader mobile reading application to access a selection of more than 30,000 titles available in 43 languages. Each time a user interacts with the application, Worldreader collects information about these interactions – such as how many pages they have read, how many times they have visited a book, or what genres they tend to read. Worldreader has invited TASCHA to help them analyze this dataset to better understand the reading patterns of its users.
The Mobile Reading Data Exchange research blog is where project members will share findings, visualizations, and posts documenting the analysis process and approach. Recent posts discuss open data and research ethics, challenges on working with big data, and the exploratory data analysis of the dataset. Results of the project will both provide insight for Worldreader about its users and product, and additionally help TASCHA understand digital reading patterns in the Global South more broadly.