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.


Fake News crisis: Digital media vs Mainstream media – who should be blamed?


“You’re a fake news man. Start acting like one!”

This line tells us the whole story!

When people change to get the news from online sources, and non-traditional outlets started to have considerable readerships, we have to face with a new crisis. Fake news!

Remember the news crisis during 2016 US presidential election? It might be one of the worst examples of “Fake news” crisis in this digital age.

Fake news is a real problem.png

During the election, fake news about both Trump and Hillary were spread like a tsunami across social media platforms. People become confused about what they can believe. However, the shares, comments, and reactions to these fake stories never stopped.

Fake news has become a true nightmare.

Who should be blamed for this crisis?

According to Canberra University News & Media Research center, an increasing number of people depend on social media as their main source of news. More than 30% of us love sharing photos, videos, news and current affairs on social media. Nowadays, social media give users full power to freely produce and distribute information without censorship. That’s why many believe that social media are the culprits for the “fake news” crisis. In the effort to control fake news, Germany even threatened to bring in legislation to fine social media sites that let fake news and hoaxes flourish. Facebook and Google also had plans to fight against fake news sites.

But did we catch the right culprit? Should mainstream media also take responsibility?


In recent years, more and more people have lost their faith in mainstream media. Instead, they rely on social media as news publishers. This shift of trust happens even more popular in countries where almost news corporations are state owned like my country, Vietnam. Mainstream media are widely believed to be led by political agenda. People turn to voices and news sources that echo to their concerns and prove to be free from political controlled. This paves the way for fake news on social media to immerse.

What are the solutions? Let’s watch this video

Media-literacy: Whenever encounter any news source, these questions should be kept in mind: What kind of content I am reading? What evidence is provided and how was it checked? What might be an alternative understanding or explanation?

In this digital age, mainstream media also need to improve their journalism quality. Rebuilding public trust is crucial.

In your opinion, who should be blamed for the fake news crisis? Feel free to share your thoughts below.