Data Visualization for Human Rights Advocacy

Katharina Rall, Margaret L. Satterthwaite, Anshul Vikram Pandey, John Emerson, Jeremy Boy, Oded Nov, Enrico Bertini

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In a world of 'Big Data', data visualization allows the viewer to explore curated data; the creator to quickly convey complex information; and advocates to vividly display their view of a better world. Fields as disparate as journalism, environmental advocacy, and development assistance are taking advantage of these data-filled times. A similar movement can be described for the realm of human rights advocacy - although at a much smaller scale. Human rights advocates have been increasingly using data to better understand rights violations and to communicate their findings and messages to targeted audiences, from the general public to policymakers and judicial bodies. While the use of data and visualization among human rights advocates is becoming more common, innovations are being taken up unevenly, and advocates admit that choices about approaches and techniques are largely based on anecdotal evidence. This article introduces the results of preliminary research into some of these questions that are the product of collaboration between researchers from a school of engineering and a school of law. It provides an initial assessment of the field, presenting the results of a study examining the use of data visualization and other visual features by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch through content coding and expert interviews. It then offers the findings of two crowdsourced user studies into pressing questions in the visualization field which hold promise for human rights advocates seeking to communicate their messages through data visualization, and concludes by suggesting further areas for research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)171-197
Number of pages27
JournalJournal of Human Rights Practice
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jul 2016


  • data visualization
  • human rights advocacy
  • interdisciplinary approaches
  • methodology
  • reporting

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Political Science and International Relations
  • Law


Dive into the research topics of 'Data Visualization for Human Rights Advocacy'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this