Join Bill Shander for an in-depth discussion in this video Personalization, part of Data Visualization: Storytelling.
- [Voiceover] As I've said many times before, including my other Linda courses. One of the most compelling reasons to make any experience interactive, is because we're all essentially narcissists. Everyone's interested in things that are about themselves and the things that they care about. And interactivity gives your audience the opportunity to make your content about them. They get to twist knobs and turn dials, and select from drop downs, and filter things down to just what they find interesting. Storytelling, by it's very nature, is an act of narcissism, not only on the part of the storyteller, necessarily, but on the part of the listener.
If you believe what I was saying earlier, about how stories are an evolutionary advantage, because they help the listener learn how to resolve anxiety, and learn skills that'll him or her survive, then that is very clearly a narcissistic thing. The story, in it's consumption, is quite directly about the listener, and their reality as much as it is about the storyteller. So I think it's very powerful, to think of storytelling in this light. To try to create stories consciously, that connect directly to your audience, and their need to understand certain things. To do this, often the best way is to literally allow them to make the story about themselves via interactivity.
One of the great example of personal data storytelling, is from Nicholas Felton, if you go to Feltron.com, it's a series of annual reports of his life. Based on just some metrics that he tracked data about his own personal life year after year. 2014 is the last data set available. He did 10 years, and decided that that was the last year. What you get, is essentially a non-interactive this is a static report, essentially a PDF, or you can get the printed version, and it literally tracks quarter by quarter, and then overalls.
Data from his life such as, where he traveled to, how he was sleeping, what his weight was, how much he drank, et cetera, and it's all this very personalized data. So if I just click through into a couple of the pages here, you can see these various data points from his life. Extremely personalized information. It's really interesting to see what he tracked, and how he tracked it, not to mention, how he visualized all of it. But it's also interesting what that means about us, and our society, and the things that we can, and should track for ourselves, and each other. It's essentially a dashboard into a personal life.
If you can take the data that you're communicating to your audience, and transform it into a personal experience for them, even if it's not their data, such as this. You will allow them to see themselves in your data, and you have a very similar effect, right. They're not just seeing some random survey, or research report, they can imagine themselves in your story. As I always phrase it, if you can make your data story into their data story, it'll resonate in a way that impersonal research about others really could never do. A great example of a personalized data story, comes from this project, Visualizing MBTA Data.
And my friends Mike Berry, and Brian Carr created this project, as part of their graduate studies. So, they start off talking about the trains. The first section is about the trains, and essentially what it's showing me is, every subway trip, on this particular date, on all of the different lines. The red line, the orange line, and the blue line. And where they were at different times of the day, and how long it took them to get there. As I scroll down, I get to, you know, sort of see a very complex, very deep, data story. And it takes a lot of different directions, and I then hit, a section about the people.
But the section that I want to talk about here, is really about this, your commute. This is being personalized, this is about me. I care about my commute, I don't really care about your commute. I need to know, if I'm trying to get from one station to another, at a certain time of day, what's that experience gonna be like for me. It's not a general story, it's a very specific story. And so in this interactive, it comes pre-selected as though there you're going from Kendall station, which is in Cambridge, into South station, which is in Boston, what would that look like? And I get this very specific data, showing me, you know, what time of the day, where the train would be, and how long the delay's would be, et cetera.
This personalization of this data experience, makes it very compelling, and very easy for me to look at, and see what my experience would look like. So for instance, if I, I start in Oak Grove, and I click and drag, and I'm going all the way down here to Ruggle station, which is where Northeastern is, I get again, a very personalized view of the data. And I can see how long the wait time is. Which is what I'm looking at down here. There's a huge lag time, and wait time for trains. This is personalized for me, I know not to try to catch a train at that particular time of day, on the orange line, or if I an doing it, I know maybe to not quite, quite as frustrated as I normally would.
This is a very different story from that generic display, of system wide information, which is gonna be averaged and smoothed out. If you live on the orange line, this communicates something very clear, and specific to you. As I always say, we're all narcissists, and the more you can make your data story, into your audience's data story, the more impactful it'll be. Personalization is a powerful tool. Use it when you can, and when you promise it, make sure you deliver it, because the narcissist in us, is all the more disappointed, not to be the center of the story, especially when we're told that we will be.
Join data visualization expert Bill Shander as he guides you through the process of turning "facts and figures" into "story" to engage and fulfill our human expectation for information. This course is intended for anyone who works with data and has to communicate it to others, whether a researcher, a data analyst, a consultant, a marketer, or a journalist. Bill shows you how to think about, and craft, stories from data by examining many compelling stories in detail.
- Creating a narrative structure for data
- Applying narrative to data
- Identifying what you want to say with the data
- Analyzing what your data is saying
- Determining what your audience needs to hear
- Leveraging tables, charts, and visuals
- Ensuring your narrative provides context and direction