I was chatting with David McCandless (
) the other day. He seems an incredibly nice and switched on guy. I missed a talk he came in to give so we were swapping ideas over coffee and I pitched my Data Visualisation as the New Photo Journalism opEd at him.
It basically goes like this: In the c.20th people didn't have the freedom to travel that we take for granted today. As cameras got lighter we sent out visual reporters to capture and make sense of the unknowable, inconceivably vast mass of humanity, conflict and strife that was becoming accessible. The photo-journalists of the middle part of the century captured, in single frames, images that defined the world at that moment so we could digest and understand it over coffee and croissant.
Today we are in a similar situation with data.
We are literally overwhelmed with data having mastered the art of capturing and interrogating our daily actions - yet have not found adequate ways of distilling that into something that makes sense to normal folks. Ways to make data into stories. Ways to visualise all this noise and make it real. Instead it just terrifies us. This is where people like David come in. And
... and we need many more.
Visualisations of data whether political, economic or environmental have to go further than just taking a snapshot - like a chart or a graph - they have to reach in and pull out a story that allows us to see, read and understand complex naratives that describe the world today. It's an extraordinary feat when done well. I think it will be the true successor to photo-journalism in the c.21st.
David smiled politely and said, "Yes. That's pretty much what I said".
Here's something fun of his: [