Data Visualisation is Storytelling

by | Jan 5, 2020 | ICT4D |

History is written from the perspective of the victor.

We can find data and evidence to back up most views. It often depends who is involved in the decision making.

So data is not just data; it’s part of something bigger. It’s part of a story. The story we tell ourselves and tell others. So when we ‘visualise’ data, we are storytelling.

If you are not convinced about this, talk to a map maker or someone who has studied maps. Those of us who went to a school that had a wall map likely had a Mercator projection map. We grew up believing Greenland was bigger than Africa. If we came across the Peters projection, it looked weird and wrong. However, there are many more maps of the world; all working with data but depicting it differently. And we haven’t even talked about country borders and what to do with disputed areas. All maps are produced by using a set of data and a set of views of the world.

However, this doesn’t just happen with maps. It is the case with all visualisation of data. Therefore we need it’s not wise to take data and its visualisations as the whole truth. They are often the depiction of the views it represents (including who funded the work).

Understanding where our data comes from, the views it represents, the story it tells. This is not a luxury, this is essential for leaders, for us all, in 2020s. This is our collective responsibility and part of the story we tell.

Photo by Andrew Stutesman

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