Priti Pandurangan

An Apprenticeship in Sensory Alchemy

Past experiences & aspirations

Walking into this course, my aspirations were informed by two key formative experiences. Firstly, working as an information design researcher with the Storylabs team at Gramener heightened my appreciation for data visualisation as a narrative tool, the avenues for leveraging non-traditional forms of media, and a taste for research into tools and techniques within this space. Alongside, my continued practice as an Indian classical dancer instilled a visceral understanding of the intricate interplay between the senses, movement, and music necessary to create an memorable, evocative experience for an audience.

To help guide my studies, I assimilated these learnings into three specific lines of inquiry established in contrast to conventional data visualisations — a shift from pixels to transmedia artefacts, from visuals to multi-sensory representations, and from curated to collaborative experiences. Throughout the course, I’ve consistently referred back to and sharpened these guiding questions through a combination of critical reading, writing, and creative practice.

Sharpening the saw: Incorporating key readings & learning through making

Going through the exercise of analysing the key readings in the field, making connections between the works of different practitioners, and using these learnings to devise my own definition of data visualisation helped bring the theoretical underpinnings of a humanistic approach to data into sharper focus.

I classified practitioners based on their underlying beliefs about the theory of knowledge and ways of knowing, their approach to visualisation, and assumptions about an audience. Two broad differences in foundational philosophies emerged during this analysis: data visualisation as objective & absolute (Tufte, E 1983) versus subjective & situated practice (Drucker, J 2014; Lupi, G 2017; Onuoha, M 2018). Creating this spectrum was instrumental in helping me contextualise differences in the field and establish my own position within it. Summarising this understanding and drawing a boundary around my approach, I devised my personal definition of data visualisation centering it around people & narratives instead of merely data, and multi-sensory, visceral experiences instead of just visualisations.

In my data installation, Slow Choke of Fast Fashion, I took the boundaries model detailed by Dr. Karin von Ompteda in Data Manifestation (Ompteda, K 2022) and tried to systematically apply it to my work. The process and outcome helped me better understand the benefits and limitations of this approach. For instance, after several iterations, I realised that a physical data installation must necessarily simplify complex information to remain comprehensible, scale down quantities to keep them within realistic limits imposed by the use of physical materials, and require more extensive explanations and context setting for the audience. At the Work In Progress show, I received positive and encouraging feedback from the audience who remarked that the symbolic use of materials and the physical form of representation helped them re-engage with a familiar subject that they could not assimilate before. This reinforces my appreciation for embodied and affective experiences (Klien, L & D’Ignazio, C 2020) as a basis for knowledge on par with scientific and quantitative ways of knowing.

The collaborative project for UN Women, was a sharp reminder for personal responsibility for being better stewards of data. Due to an incorrect analysis of the dataset, the final visualisation created was inaccurate and represented erroneous insights. This experience has solidified my feeling that as communicators, it is an inviolable expectation that we guard against unintentionally spreading misinformation, irrespective of our chosen forms of representation.

It is also one of my personal aims for the study to fully utilise the print and creative technology labs at LCC. With a fair bit of background in both areas, it’s been an exciting experience trying to ratchet up my technical skills while integrating these forms of media into my course projects.

For instance, in the project Urban Echoes, I found great satisfaction in using traditional letterpress techniques for visualising the urban soundscape of London. The deliberate and thoughtful approach that print requires, allowed me to discover nuanced textures and typographic compositions, making the piece more impactful than what I would have achieved through other production means.

Similarly, incorporating physical computing in Werner’s Nomenclature of Colors, gave me an additional insight into the challenges of creating a seamless interaction that would feel natural and intuitive to a user without compromising their direct sensory experience.

These explorations serve as cornerstones in introducing me to the idea of using sensory information as data, exploring creative representations of a place, and leveraging technology to stitch together the sensed and the represented.

Throughout the course, I’ve maintained weekly journals documenting my work and thoughts. Creating this reflective space has helped me take account of my learnings and see the big picture.

Bringing it together: Plan for the Final Major Project

Building on the ideas above, my Final Major Project focuses on the intersection between multi-sensory experiences and how they connect us to and shape our sense of a place. To gain a better understanding of the question, I’ve sought out mentorship from other practitioners in the field to learn first-hand about their strategies for gathering, recording and depicting sensory data.

I participated in an open-ended sensory walk organised by Katherine Smith in Croydon (Tin Can Headphone Walk, 6/5/23, Whitgift Shopping Centre). Wearing tin cans around our ears to amplify auditory stimuli, the participants walked through a shopping centre, noting our feelings and perceptions of the space. Reflecting back on the experiences shared by the group at the end of the walk, particularly those shared by neurodiverse participants, made me realise the extent to which our common sensory experiences can be interpreted in varied and subjective ways.

Prof. Kate McLean’s work on sensory maps has been a key influence in shaping my ideas around multi-sensory mapping. I had the opportunity to accompany her on a smell walk in Chatham (Luton Smell Walk, 22/3/23) serving as an initial step for an extensive study into correlations between air quality and gentrification in the area. During the walk, she shared her strategies for registering smells more accurately, pointed out differences between indoor and outdoor smells, and the need for capturing impressions promptly to preserve context. In contrast to the walks organised around artistic intents, this experience gave me the perspective of an academic inquiry aiming to use sensory data and maps as an investigative tool.

Keeping myself open to inputs from outside design circles has been another source of inspiration and serendipity. I joined a workshop hosted by an artist’s collective called Soundcamp who investigate long-duration listening in the context of the environment and ecology (Soundcamp, no date). We assembled a device called a streambox built with a Raspberry Pi, audio sensor, and a microphone that captures and streams sounds in real-time over the radio. I used the device on a short data walk around the neighbourhood to capture sounds of nature, noticing how sensors like these can reduce the overwhelm and anxiety of capturing information during sensory walks.

By observing the tools & strategies of others more closely, I’ve come to recognise that each practitioner necessarily improvises their own means befitting their context. For my project to be successful, I’ll have to iteratively develop methods for capturing and representing sensory information. Additionally, these learnings have renewed my belief that there is a strong value in introducing data experiences to fields outside core data visualisation circles that has been so far under-served.

Looking ahead: Shaping a creative practice

Beyond the course, I look forward to continue evolving my research and creative practice in multi-sensory data experiences, particularly within the space of culture, heritage, and archives. As my understanding of the subject deepens, I see a more vivid and inspiring panorama of possibilities my practice could entail.


  1. Ompteda, K. (2019, October 20-25) Data Manifestation: Merging the Human World & Global Climate Change. IEEE VISAP, Vancouver, BC, Canada. IEEE
  2. Tufte, E. (2007) The Visual Display of Quantitative Information. 5th edn. Connecticut: Graphics Press LLC, pp. 91–137
  3. Drucker, J. (2014) Graphesis: Visual Forms of Knowledge Production. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, pp. 02–12 (Foreword), and 180–192
  4. Lupi, G (2017) Data Humanism. Available at (Accessed: 04 June 2023)
  5. Ọnụọha, M (2018) What Is Missing Is Still There
  6. Klien, L and D’Ignazio, C. (2020) Data Feminism. MIT Press
  7. McLean, K. Sensory Maps. Available at (Accessed: 04 June 2023)
  8. Soundcamp (no date) About. Available at: (Accessed: 04 June 2023)