Saturday, May 10, 2014

Another contribution to the debate on storytelling in visualization and infographics

Does this visualization tell "stories"?
Tableau's Andy Cotgreage has written an excellent article about the podcast on storytelling in infographics and visualization. The debate around what we said began in the comments section (make sure to read them,) and Andy decided to step in to clarify some points. He likes my annotation-narrative-storytelling trinity, so he explains why it might be useful. Then he says:
"We shouldn’t fret about taking words that evolved to describe verbal and written methods of communication and make sure we get the term perfectly aligned to something in data visualisation. We can argue all day about whether something is a story or an annotation. In fact: I am sure we will debate it for years. Whatever word you choose, I hope we all agree that there’s a difference between a basic unannotated bar chart, and an annotated, sequentially arranged chart/charts."
Yes, we agree. We also agree on how these techniques can be (and are) misused, something that I tried to describe at Tapestry and NICAR, and in the back-and-forth around the article I co-wrote for Nature Methods magazine. Here's Andy:
"I do suspect storytelling will be over used by marketing departments and the media to cover all manner of things. This will be a shame and dangerous in the long run. See the back lash against big data as an example."