When to trust data visualisation (and when not to)

If you ask whether people prefer to see images rather than text to process an information, I’m pretty sure the answer would be a resounding yes. Why?

Because humans are visual creatures.

Research from 3M corporation has found that we process images 60,000 times faster than text. This might explain why we find visual data is more appealing and attractive:

simply because we can understand it quicker.

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This might also explain the increasing number of data journalism we see everywhere we go, whether it’s on TV, social media, and even newspapers. The emergence of data journalism certainly, has not been ignored by journalists or even amateur bloggers.

A staggering number of people and businesses are racing and competing against each other to make the best and most creative infographics that are appealing to the audience.

However, often, at the expense of credibility and accuracy.

As discussed in the previous blog post, there are some problems associated with infographics and data journalism. Fisher’s ‘map of the world’s most and least racially tolerant countries‘ can perhaps serve as a perfect example of how data journalism are often flawed and misleading, yet, it is blindly accepted and believed by millions of people in a heartbeat.

The fact that colours and designs have more impact on people’s perception of messages, rather than the actual credibility of the data source, says a lot about the issue of interpreting infographics.

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So how can this issue be solved?

First of all, it is important for anyone that create infographics or data visualisation to disclose where the sources associated with their data and graphic are coming from, and more importantly, how their data/work should or should not be treated as scientific fact.

And secondly, by raising public awareness about the issue of accuracy in data visualisation, to prevent the spread of fake news or misinformation.

But how do people identify inaccurate/faulty data?

John Burns Murdoch came up with this list you have to check before believing in any data visualisation. It is not anything revolutionary, it is just the kind of thing that people can do mentally and automatically in their mind when seeing a data. If the data failed to check all the lists provided, then it is probably best to not trust the data.

The future of newspapers in digital platforms

The rise of digital platforms has undoubtedly helped giving businesses the opportunity to reach a wider audience, engage more with its consumers, and be more cost-effective in terms of physical resources.

However, it is worth mentioning that digital platform can only be a tremendous help to businesses if it is used correctly.

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Traditional newspapers might find ways to adapt to this ever-changing online and mobile media trends, one way is by leveraging into digital platforms. However, many newspapers tend to ‘shovelware‘ — in which they simply copy the news that they published in the newspaper and posted it on its digital platform.

It does not work that way.

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It should be noted that people use different platforms for different purposes. For example, I personally use mobile phones to access quick, short and live updates. On tablets, I tend to read longforms, feature stories, watch videos. And in desktop, I am more inclined to access complex data, infographics, and watch longer videos.

This approach requires newspapers and journalists to create contents tailored specifically for each medium and reader, as not all contents are good enough that it can move from one platform to the next. Some contents will not translate well for different device interfaces.

For example, newspapers might cover general news in their daily paper, post live update of breaking news on Twitter, encourage discussion of heated debate on its forum or even create a website solely for user-generated content comprises of members that discuss the current news. This way, the company will create a better engagement and cultivate a deeper relationship with its community.

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Although digital platform allows businesses to operate more conveniently and all, it is important to highlight the fact that the development of digital platform also enables the power to shift from organization to users.

As consumers are now able to share, like and comment the contents, they are becoming more powerful than ever. With the rise of digital platforms, consumers are now more willing to share and voice their opinions about a certain product, brand, or business, that can either help or hurt the brand.