Data visualisation as a storytelling medium

Visualisation has been around for ages – we all learnt how to do pie charts at school for example… but the current trend of making data open – led largely by the public sector – with large data sets becoming available, combined with the emergence of free and easy to use technical tools, are creating an exciting new practice in story telling.

A very interesting film (54 minutes) about this is available at the infosthetics.com website.

The film includes suggestions that whilst the new tools make it easy for anyone to create visualisations, there’s scope here for it to be done badly.

In Information Services we have a requirement to provide expert and professional support to our academic colleagues and students. I think this is an area we need to watch closely, understand well and start to provide as a defined, supported service. Getting visualisation right will enable us (the University) to help academics tell better stories, and that outcome has all sorts of benefits (better communication, more impact, improved public understanding of science).

In addition to the above film, advice is available on creating effective, usable and accessible visualisations from WebCredible.

Look also at the Guardian’s data store, IBM’s Many Eyes, the BBC’s How big really site, and there are of course many more sites on this subject…

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