VVOJ2012 verslag: Telling Stories with Datavisualisation

Titel: Telling Stories with Data Visualization (keynote speech)
Datum: 17 november 2012
Tijd: 15:45-17:00 uur
Spreker: Geoff McGhee
Aantal deelnemers: 150

Verslag: Wouter Gorissen

Geoff McGhee made very clear what he was going to talk about with one question: “How do we communicate something that doesn’t use words?”

First, he discussed the power of data visualization, supporting what he said with a few examples. One in particular was very impressive: the 3D display of our Milky Way. Next, he provided his audience with a few examples of data visualization usage. Apps, Google and Twitter to name three. Data visualization is a rather general word and therefore McGhee talked about the different categories.

First category is “The Sketchbook”, which stands for making sense of new information.

The second category is “The Remix” and stands for seeing the familiar through a new lens. It means that you tell people something they already know, but in a different way.

A perfect example is showing crime rates as if they were mountains, the crime rates were already known but by showing them as mountains the effect on people changes. It just one of the McGhees many examples.

Next, McGhee spoke about  his current employer, the Bill Lane Center for the American West. He gave background information about himself as well.

He called it “A Decade in Infographics and Multimedia. That information led to showing a fragment of his documentary about datajournalism, which you can watch here:

Another video fragment showed the challenge of in data visualization: keeping the reader’s attention. For the moment, data visualization is in a transition phase, he said, and people are still experimenting how they can make it easier for the average reader. McGhee gave three sources of inspiration: comic books, movies and video games.

Then he discussed the patterns of visualization. He mentioned five of them.

1. Stimulating Default View: something has to be stimulating as soon as you open it.

2. The “Martini Glass”: the reader can choose his own amount of information. The “Martini Glass” consists of two reads, the fist read is the narrative read and the second read is the reference read.

3. The “Data Slide Show”: providing data in a slide show, so that’s quite self-explanatory.

4. The “Drill-Down Story”: a lot of points that contain information and people choose for themselves which one they want to click on.

5. Videographics: animated sequences with or without narration. A well-known example are the From Above videos.

The patterns aside, there are also other narrative techniques. Sequencing and Headline Writing, “Book-Like” Interface –hiding interfaces so it looks like a book-, Annotated Video, DataPlayer an User Involvement are the five techniques McGhee spoke about before giving two types of emerging design conventions.

The first one he explained was “The Scroller”. Also self-explanatory because of the fact you have to work with your scroller. But instead of always going down some parts of the site move in other directions. In other words the site’s animated through scrolling.

The second type was the “Responsive” Design and is designed to go against the creation of different platforms for different devices (iPhone, Ipad, …). The advantage is that it works on every device and that it can go viral. It also has a reformatting character.

To end his presentation, Geoff McGhee gave the view of Academia and talked about something he calls Topic Modelling. Sadly enough, there was no time left for him to answer questions.





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