Friday, March 31, 2017

Data Viz

Data visualization is the art of taking data and presenting it visually so the significance of the data is easy for people to read.   I took a class called "Data Exploration and Storytelling: Finding stories in data with storytelling and visualization" at the beginning of this year online. Alberto Cairo and Heather Krause co-taught it.

While 'data viz' isn't tumbling off most people's tongue's, it seems to be a big deal in journalism.  Or maybe just among a certain subset of journalism.  Cairo and Krause were terrific teachers - they knew their stuff and presented it clearly.  But 6000 people from around the world were signed up for this MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) through the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas.  The assignments were basically to address questions in the discussion forums, not to do projects using data and the suggested software from Tableau.

Having taken the course, I'm seeing data viz all over the place.  Sort of like when you're pregnant you notice all the other pregnant women, or if you buy a new car, you start seeing that car everywhere.  It also helps that I started following Alberto Cairo on Twitter.

I'm thinking about this particularly now because I filled out a questionnaire about the MOOC yesterday, and I saw this chart on Twitter just now.

So I'd also like to share this list [partial here] of best Data Viz websites from Medium Corporation:

1.  Story Telling With Data - the link takes you to a step-by-step post on decluttering of a data visualization.

2.  Junk Charts - "Junk Charts is made by Kaiser Fung, the Web’s first data visualization critic. I discuss what makes graphics work, and how to make them better. Think chartjunk + junk art."

3.  The Functional Art - "Alberto Cairo's weblog on visualization, infographics, and data journalism"  And if you've been paying attention, you'll know he was one of the professors for the class I took.  This one includes a lot of news about what's happening in the data viz field.

4.  Rock the Vizcomm - The link takes you to a post on a 2016 survey of data visualization professionals.  He lists these key findings:
"Key Findings
  1. Practitioners are using an incredibly large array of tools to do their work, while some market leaders are beginning to emerge.
  2. “Increasing understanding” is the primary goal of data visualization but after that, the opinions vary.
  3. Good data and trained staff are the keys to success, while “figuring out the story” in the data remains a critical challenge for many.
  4. Those who are measuring their outcomes expect spending on visualization to increase, with nearly one in five expecting significant growth."
5.  Our World in Data - I realize this is a post on visualization blogs and so far it's mainly words.  So here's a visualization.  It had four countries listed.  Ethnocentric as I am, I added the US (the upper red line beginning 1900).  The cursor will give you specific data.

Surely there are a bunch of doctoral dissertations waiting to be written by people discussing the correlations between the peaks and valleys and the political, economic, and social events in each country.  Note the US dip in the 1950s.  Is it because all the youngish men were tired from the war (or off to Korea)?  Because they were in college on the GI bill?  Because the US had the highest income taxes ever?  Because economic equity was and hope was high?   Lots to chew on.

6.  The Perceptual Edge - "Visual Business Intelligence: A blog by Stephen Few" And yes, this one focuses on business.

I've just taken the top six of  Medium Corporations list of best Data Viz websites of 2016.  Go to the link to see the other six on the list.

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