Encoding the UX: User Interface as a Site of Encounter between Data Journalists and Their Constructed Audiences

Bissie Anderson*, Eddy Borges-Rey

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


This paper examines how data journalism producers encode their audiences’ user experience–or how they construct meaning within the parameters of a user interface. We argue that interfaces enact data journalists’ perceptual image of their audience, and are therefore a meaningful object of study to explore: (a) the relationship between data reporters and their publics; (b) the tensions that emerge from that relationship; and (c) how those tensions are negotiated. Our combined evaluation of producer and artefact perspectives is based on interviews with 12 data journalism producers in legacy UK newsrooms, and interaction design, and multimodal discourse analysis of 12 stories produced by our informants. Findings suggest that data journalism producers’ efforts to create content that resonates with their audiences have resulted in the diversification of data journalism formats, and a more mature view of interactivity, with producers striving to offer experiences in whose meaning negotiation the reader takes centre stage. The reader is perceived as a co-creator of meaning through the expectation of either physical interaction or cognitive immersion. Yet, the paternalistic element, even in the most discovery-/reader-driven stories, remains stronger, manifesting in a carefully crafted experience and pointing to journalism producers’ traditional self-perception as gatekeepers of information.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1253-1269
Number of pages17
JournalDigital Journalism
Issue number9
StatePublished - Oct 21 2019


  • Audiences
  • data journalism
  • encoding
  • interactivity
  • multimodality
  • user experience
  • user interface

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication


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