- [Narrator] Imagine you were dropped into a village in the Amazon, and you had to describe to the people there who you were and where you were from, would you start with a joke about the most recent celebrity scandal? Maybe segway to your resume and maybe your academic career. Never mind the contents, just speaking English, of course, would be a problem, right? Like in all communications, in Data Visualization you have to connect with your audience, you have to speak their language, literally and figuratively. For DataVis, there's a very subtle analog to that, in that data is inherently confusing.
It can be overwhelming and unrelatable, even if you share the same culture and language, you really have to take extra care to make the abstract data that you're talking about relatable to people. In fact, it's really your primary job to make that data relatable and understandable, which are very strongly correlated. So I was doing a visualization on forest sustainability and it had few different stats in it. This is one of them. So, the stat is, that the demand for wood worldwide is going to triple by 2050 to more than 10 billion cubic meters.
So, numbers like this are very recognizable to people who are in the industry, but this infographic was for public consumption. And so, how do we take this number, 10 billion cubic meters, and turn it into something that people relate to? They can sense that it's a large number, but they don't really know what it means. So maybe 10 billion cubic meters is half the forests on Earth, or maybe it means all the wood burned in every fireplace in the United States for the past twenty years. I'm making these up. Maybe it's all the wood you would need to replace the carpets on every floor of every house in Cleveland.
These are very tangible, metaphorical ways to relate that number to something. So, my client gave me a different metaphor. And their metaphor was that it's the equivalent of 10, 000 Empire State Buildings full of wood. Now, this is a pretty good start. I can actually visualize that to some degree. I know that the Empire State Building is a very large thing, I've stood next to it. And I can sort of imagine, or maybe it's the fact that I can't imagine it, but I can imagine how overwhelming 10, 000 of them would be.
So, it's a good start, right? What does it mean, 10, 000 Empire State Buildings full of wood. I can definitely visualize it, which is half the battle, but I would argue that it's not the best metaphor in this case, because it's not really on topic. Saying that there are 10, 000 Empire State Buildings worth of wood, doesn't help me think of it in terms of sustainability. So let's move on to the next example from this project. The next stat was, that global forest carbon stocks are estimated to be 861 billion tons. So, what this actually translates to, is that all of the forests on Earth store the equivalent amount of carbon as 861 billion tons.
Okay, so that's what this means. So again, thinking about it, the client gave me this metaphor, this comparison. They said that that number is the equivalent of 27 years worth of fossil fuel consumption. So in other words, 27 years of people driving their cars and heating their homes etc. So now I get it, I now know that if I took every forest on Earth, and cut it down and burned it, it would be like immediately releasing 27 years' worth of driving and heating your homes etc.
So, coming back to what does that mean, that number? 27 times the world's carbon emissions, it's on topic, this is about sustainability so I've got the other half of the battle won on this one. But I would argue again, it's not really visualizable. I can relate to it, but I can't quite see what 27 years means. But it's almost there. So, the third step that they had was that the world currently has two billion hectares of land that is degraded or deforested. And this point for this stat was that degraded and deforested land is therefore available to be reforested, right.
So this is something that I can work with in terms of sustainability. So it's really an important idea. But what I can't remember, is what is a hectare? Right, a hectare is something to do with a certain number of acres, I certainly can't visualize what two billion hectares means, I just don't have a concept of what that really means in real terms. But my client, again, gave me the example. And so, what they said, is that's the equivalent of the land mass of The United States, plus China. So that feels like a lot of space. I know what the Earth looks like, I know now what sort of, roughly, percentage of the Earth's land mass that means.
So the fact that there's that much land that is ready to be reforested and made into sustainable forestry, is a really big deal. And so, in this case, it's both relatable and visual, as well as on topic. So I think that this is one of the better examples of how to make abstract numbers and abstract data relatable to people. This project actually had a lot of examples of data that were sort of hard to understand and make relatable to your average person but, if you think about your audience, you think about what they know, and more importantly think about what they don't know, assuming they know less than you, and provide extra context, provide extra information to make sure it's clear.
Remember to speak their language and provide references that they can relate to. So just remember, there are no Empire State Buildings in the Amazon. So, if you were dropped into the Amazon and had to explain to the natives, where you came from, talking about the Empire State Building might not do the trick.
- Describe the process by which individuals’ interests are incorporated into data visualizations.
- Differentiate the use of the Ws in data visualization.
- Explain techniques involved in defining your narrative when visualizing data.
- Identify the factors that make data visualizations relatable to an audience’s interests and needs.
- Review the appropriate use of charts in data visualizations.
- Define the process involved in applying interactivity to data visualizations.