From Before the Cradle

Mapping controversies and online debate
on C-Section and Family Planning

about the project

The World Health Organization’s Department of Reproductive Health and Research (RHR) is constantly committed to develop innovative tools and strategies for better communication at all levels the Department’s work such as effective advocacy, communications to donors, researchers, patients, policy makers and other non specialized audiences.

To this extend, has set up a long term collaboration with the médialab | SciencesPo and the DensityDesign Research Lab | Politecnico di Milano to deploy an extensive Cartographies of Controversies Campaign. The campaign focus on two very critical and major themes for the RHR particularly for their socio-cultural implications: Family Planning and the use of Caesarean Section worldwide.

The results of the project aimed at producing a scientific comprehensive analysis of the ongoing debates and to produce visual communication instruments to convey the critical information adapted to the different partners and actors involved in it.

case studies


The Department of Reproductive Health and Research (RHR) committed to engage to develop innovative tools and instruments for better communication at all levels of the Department work such as effective advocacy, communications to donors, researchers, patients, policy makers and other non specialized audiences.
The work with the Cartographies of controversies enables a more visually appealing and engaging presentation of information than standard scientific graphics and hence increasing the potential for attracting the attention of large non-specialized audiences. In this framework, RHR is collaborating with the Universities that have originated and advanced these ideas, methodologies and techniques i.e.

The médialab | Sciences Po is a center of research connecting social sciences with new digital tools. It is aimed at bringing together a set of knowledge and capacities necessary for the development of digital humanities. The laboratory is centered on digital methods taking inspiration from a robust and original theoretical approach in the social sciences called actor-network-theory. One of the major undertakings of the médialab is to improve the classic methods of research by moving beyond the dissimilarities between quantitative (statistical aggregation) and qualitative (ethnography and document analysis) methods, between macro and micro approaches, by proposing a new generation of “quali-quantitative methods” for the social sciences. The médialab specializes in a methodology of analysis and visualization of controversies with the scope of navigating the uncertain universe of increasing socio-technical controversies. To do this, the médialab develops customized tools to capture the corpus of web material representing the controversy under study and account for relevant information for the tools of observation and the social description.

DensityDesign is a Research Lab in the Design Department of the Politecnico di Milano. It focuses on the visual representation of complex social, organizational and urban phenomena. Although producing, collecting, and sharing information has become much easier, robust methods and effective visual tools are still needed to observe and explore the nature of complex issues. Our research aim is to exploit the potential of information visualization and information design and provide innovative and engaging visual artifacts to enable researchers and scholars to build solid arguments. By rearranging numeric data, reinterpreting qualitative information, locating information geographically, and building visual taxonomies, we can develop a diagrammatic visualization—a sort of graphic shortcut—to describe and unveil the hidden connections of complex systems. Our visualizations are open, inclusive, and preserve multiple interpretations of complex phenomena. DensityDesign is committed to collaborating with other researchers and organizations devoted to academic independence and rigor, open enquiry, and risk taking to enhance our understanding of the world.


Mario Merialdi



Donato Ricci





Giorgio Uboldi