Part 1: Finding the Story in Data
When you set out to tell a story with data, how do you determine its scope and focus? What kind of relationship do you want to cultivate between your viewers and the data being visualized? If there is a “best” or “most effective” story lurking in the data for the audience at hand, how do you pick it apart from the others?
Data visualization refers to a set of tools and practices, but also a deeper struggle to find a way to craft meaning from representations of reality, and share that meaning with others via narrative. In this post, I’ll explore how I grappled with identifying and framing a data visualization story in the context of a semester-long consulting project with the Bentley Historical Library.
According to the Bentley’s website:
The Bentley Historical Library collects the materials for and promotes the study of the histories of two great, intertwined institutions, the State of Michigan and the University of Michigan. The Library is open without fee to the public, and we welcome researchers regardless of academic or professional affiliation.
The Bentley is home to a massive, diverse trove of items spread across 11,000 collections. When the Bentley reached out to the Digital Project Studio last fall, they had a central goal in mind: helping researchers understand the collections better, and engage with these collections in ways beyond the affordances of simple keyword searches or browsing alphabetical lists. They hoped data visualization could provide something special to spur that process – a new kind of insight or way of interacting. Continue reading