Sunday, January 12, 2014

Infographics propaganda, yesterday and today

It may not be true that history repeats itself as tragedy or farce, but in the world of infographics that certainly seems to be the case. I thought about this while reading Murray Dick's 'Just Fancy That: An analysis of infographic propaganda in The Daily Express, 1956–1959' an academic article just published in Routledge's Journalism Studies.

Dick, a lecturer in multimedia journalism at Brunel University, explains the multiple ways in which a prominent British conservative tabloid used a nascent visual storytelling tool to mislead its audience and push the interests of its owner: Cherry-picked data, gross simplifications, truncated axes, incorrect proportions —almost every form of infographics malfeasance is exemplified in the sample of more than 200 graphics that the author gathered.

It's easy and appropriate to relate these "Expressographs" to what marketers incorrectly call "infographics" nowadays. The similarities are visible and worrying. For some background on this, I'd like to refer you to a few older posts: 1, 2, 3 —my favorite one.

On a side note, Dick's article also got me thinking that certain news organizations have learned nothing from history (or perhaps they have learned a lot.) Some Brazilian friends told me this morning that GloboNews TV, which belongs to the main media group in the country, has just shown this stupid bar graph about inflation. Don't read the figures. Compare the height of the bars first. And despair.