newstraining

Skills for journalists in print and digital media

Data visualization as “story”

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There are a lot of discussions about how best to present data effectively on a newspaper web site. One of the most intriguing of late, mentioned by Mindy McAdams in her Teaching Online Journalism blog, is this academic study from Edward Segel and Jeffrey Heer at Stanford University, titled, “Narrative Visualization: Telling Stories with Data.”

Segel and Heer set out to:

“…further our understanding of narrative visualization by analyzing and contrasting examples of visualizations with a story-telling component.We then generalize from these examples to identify salient design dimensions. In the process, we hope to clarify how narrative visualization differs from other storytelling forms, and how these differences introduce both opportunities and pitfalls for its narrative potential.”

Through a variety of good examples and their own analysis, one of their conclusions is the value of making data interactive, even in the context of a larger story. Let the story unfold, they say, but provide opportunities for readers to stop and work with the data.

“Generalizing across our examples, data stories appear to be most effective when they have constrained interaction at various checkpoints within a narrative, allowing the user to explore the data without veering too far from the intended narrative.”

One implication for multimedia story forms and training reporters and editors to plan them more effectively is to factor into a storyboard not only the right data to include, but how to make that data accessible and interactive in a way that does not interrupt the story.

Here is one example, a playful way to compare economic indicators among a set of cities that puts complex data in chart form for easy reference. It’s from a series on key economic indicators and what they say about the future of the Phoenix economy. The interactive chart was created using Adobe Flex.

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Written by mroberts8

01/22/2011 at 1:04 pm

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