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Deviprasad Goenka Management College of Media Studies

Mirror Mirror on the wall – Who’s the best looking Data of all

By Prof. Vidula Deo

June 28, 2018 at 12:05 PM



Today, if you are searching for something in particular on the Internet, how many reference links do you get? Well, count the links per page and multiply it by the number of pages. And there is your answer. But can data be counted so easily?

Over the past 20, 25 years, the rate at which data is available for research, news reporting, communication, and analysis has reached a phenomenal level. Everyday Google processes almost three billion searches. This quick and easy access to data has led to the rise of a particular kind of journalism known as data journalism.

Data Journalism an old new wave
Data Journalism isn’t really, completely new. Data has always been the life line of journalists. But with the sophisticated and versatile kind of data available and produced today, data journalism has really come under the spot light. The sheer magnitude of digital data available fused with the ‘nose-for-news’ attitude of journalists has led to an advanced process of “gathering, cleaning, organizing, analyzing, visualizing and publishing data to support the creation of acts of journalism”(Howard 2014). One could also say that data journalism is stories enriched by data, stories used to investigate data, stories used to explain data.
But all said and said again, data is facts and figures. And, plain facts and figures aren’t just boring but also difficult to comprehend. So, what does data really need? A beauty makeover.

Giving data a makeover
The question that arises is - how does a journalist get data that is beautiful and easy to read and also easy to comprehend? .
Google has taken up this task at hand. Google’s data visualization project through Google’s News Lab has taken the help of world’s best designers to help data tell phenomenal, visual stories. The resulting data stories are made open for all.

Giving a makeover – how?
Let us take an example search shown by Google Trends -
The maps below show how America eats.

Image source - https://trends.google.com/trends/story/US_cu_6fXtAFIBAABWdM_en
Using Google Data, Google News Lab along with design studio Polygraph, started visualizing data. The varying food trends across the city were quantified. On the basis of aggregated, anonymized and private data from users who had used Google Location History, cities and countries were ranked for their popular food. An example below shows that barbecue restaurants are very popular.


Image source - https://medium.com/google-news-lab/what-is-the-pizza-capital-of-the-us-8611a1ca6e41

Likewise, when a cuisine-wise comparision was made, a better picture of the regional preferences across US could be made.


Image source - https://medium.com/google-news-lab/what-is-the-pizza-capital-of-the-us-8611a1ca6e41

This effectively shows the power of data visualization.
To sum up the story so far, whenever data journalism has worked with traditional reporting methods, data has been left feeling anonymous and impersonal. But because of Google News Lab’s data visualization project, data and art are working hand-in-hand to make data more visually appealing and data journalism more visually effective.
It wouldn’t be wrong if it is said that Data Visualization is the new tool on the journalism block. And it is definitely something that is making data journalism even more effective and powerful.