Telling Stories with Data

Data visualization might give the illusion of telling the “truth” without the need for explanation or narrative.

How did you go about writing your blog posts for example for Assignment #3?

In the article the authors cite Jonathan Harris: the creator of We Feel Fine and Whale Hunt.  He considers himself a storyteller first and a visualization designer second: “I think people have begun to forget how powerful human stories are, exchanging their sense of empathy for a fetishistic fascination with data, networks, patterns, and total information… Really, the data is just part of the story. The human stuff is the main stuff, and the data should enrich it.”

How do you react to this?  How does Luke DuBois react to this?

What is story?  Harris says: “I define ‘story’ quite loosely. To me, a story can be as small as a gesture or as large as a life. But the basic elements of a story can probably be summed up with the well-worn Who / What / Where / When / Why / How.”

Wojtkowski andWojtkowski [27] further argue that what makes data visualization different from other types of visual storytelling is the complexity of the content that needs to be communicated. They conclude that “visual storytelling, in turn, might be of critical importance in providing intuitive and fast exploration of very large data resources,” but again stop short of detailing how we might best “tailor visualization systems to accommodate storytelling.”

What is important is how to think about your design space.  How to incorporate text and visuals.


New York Times

The authors analyze a set of visualizations from journalism that employ Tufte’s design principles …

They describe their process as identifying (1) genre, (2) visual narrative tactics, and (3) narrative structure tactics.

Have a look at the sites listed at the end of the article and think about how the data visualizations are using a progressive narrative that is illustrated through the visualization.

1) Here are the genres of narrative visualization listed on p. 1145:
magazine style; annotated chart; partitioned poster; flow chart; comic strip; slide show; film/video/animation

Identify the visual devices that assist and facilitate the narrative:

a) Visual structuring refers to mechanisms that communicate the overall structure of the narrative to the viewer and allow him to identify his position within the larger organization of the visualization. These design strategies help orient the viewer early on (establishing shot, checklist, consistent visual platform) and allow the viewer to track his progress through the visualization (progress bar, timeline slider).

b)Highlighting refers to visual mechanisms that help direct the viewer’s attention to particular elements in the display. This can be achieved through the use of color, motion, framing, size, audio, and more, which augment the salience of an element relative to its surroundings. Many of these strategies are also used in film, art, and comics.

c) Transition guidance concerns techniques for moving within or between visual scenes without disorienting the viewer. A common technique from film is continuity editing, though other strategies (e.g., animated transitions, object continuity, camera motion) also exist.

3) Narrative Structure: is the visualization author-driven or reader-driven?
Is there a linear ordering of screens/scenes; heavy messaging; no interactivity
OR: no prescribed ordering; no messaging; free interactivity?

How many of these are using the “funnel/Martini glass” effect?

Interactive slide show?  Drill down story?

As you start thinking about the final project that will include multiple elements (one of which will be NARRATIVE PROSE) how might you arrange different visual elements to tell the story you want to tell?