Storytelling with Data
In 2014, The World Bank conducted research on their website traffic to determine if anyone was reading what they published online. They found that one third of the documents were never downloaded. Forty percent had fewer than 100 downloads. Only 13 percent had been downloaded more than 250 times.
Public and private sector institutions have come a long way towards making their data easily available, but just publishing the data isn’t enough. Data needs context. It must be able to provide the decision-maker or consumer with the tools to interpret it in a way that makes sense to them.
This is the art of Data Storytelling.
Data Storytelling is a way to communicate insights about data. It incorporates the who, what, when, where, why, and how of news reporting, and integrates it with technology to succinctly contextualize data into a meaningful story. Data Storytelling can take many forms. Infographics, web-enabled APIs, interactive collaboration, and any other platform that uses contrast and variation to deliver a compelling narrative is a form of Data Storytelling. For institutions, Data Storytelling is a powerful tool to promote understanding of how they operate, deliver services, show value, and engage with their workforce.
To tell a story with data, a data artist must consider several key features. First, visualizations offer a quick and impactful way to display data. Another method is to provide impactful stories that speak to your intended audience. Interactive analytics such as dashboards invite exploration to the user experience while keeping data current. To go further, inviting participation through events, forums, tools, or other collaborative mediums allow the user to use the data to deliver understanding on their own terms. Without the data, the story may not be compelling and may not cause decision-makers to take action.
A great example of the effectiveness of Data Storytelling is an exercise done at Stanford University using speech to present data. In a classroom setting, students received 10 one-minute presentations on crime statistics in the U.S. Each presenter gave an average of 2.5 statistics within their presentations, while only one of the 10 used stories instead. Afterwards, students watched an unrelated short video and then asked to write down what they recalled from the prior presentations. When students were asked to recall the speeches, 63% remembered the stories. Only 5% remembered any individual statistic.
As the example above shows, presenting key data points is not enough. Data Storytelling instills subjectivity to the data that engages the emotional and the logical in thinking about what the data is saying. People can act on stories. Data Storytelling can be used as a behavioral science technique to help individuals take meaningful action.
Being able to connect with an audience, whether it be with decision-makers or constituents, allows you to explain, enlighten, and engage them. With right narrative, you can influence and drive change.
About Arc Aspicio
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