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.


Image 1

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.


Image 2

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.


Crowdfunding – Could it be a “lifeboat” for Investigative Journalism in Vietnam?

This week, we discuss how technology changes news business models in terms of funding. This inspires me to think of crowdfunding as a solution to funding investigative journalism in Vietnam.


I’ve been a journalist for 4 years in Vietnam. And do you know what makes me mad? It is when we find out the government is doing something wrong. (And this happens all the time).  We meet our boss and say our newspaper needs to investigate those issues. Their mind goes blank and they shout “No”.

In Vietnam, journalists have to face with heavy-handed censorship. And because every press agencies are state owned, journalism cannot say anything against the government. Investigative journalists in my country are struggling to find both funding and distribution channels. Could we break this impasse?


David Appel, a freelance reporter, succeeded in raising fund for his investigative weblog. His project, then, reveals that sugar companies tried to lobby the Congress to stop funding WHO because WHO”s activities pose a threat to these companies” interest.

In 2007, one of the biggest news stories in the US — the Bush administration’s firing of a group of U.S. attorneys — was covered by the reporters of the blog Talking Points Memo.

Crowdfunding has been the answer for investigative journalism around the world. In his article,  Paul Bradshaw has pointed out three models for online funding investigative works, including foundation support, viewer donation, and licensing/advertising. Usually, the reality is a combination of all three.

However, attracting readers and financial support is never an easy task. Since 2000, various non-for-profit media groups has sprouted across the world. Crowdfunding nowadays is like a fierce of starving carnivores. Only whom with the best strategy and tactics could be the survivors.

Since 2011, Knight Foundation has annually released the report “Getting Local: How Nonprofit News Ventures Seek Sustainability” analyzing many nonprofit investigative news sites. The report finds that the most successful models are those having a long-term strategic plan, annual budgetary goals and a corresponding development plan with specific metrics.

However, no successful stories can be a normative model. With consideration to Vietnam’s socio-political nature, there are two major concerns. First, the notion of philanthropic support for nonprofits is still strange in Vietnam. Second, freedom of speech is still a controversial issue.  These are big obstacles needed to overcome first!

Technology Criticism – How it shapes the future of Technology?

By Ngan Nguyen – z5119704

In his article “Tech journalism needs to grow up”, Michael Brendan Dougherty argues that tech publications such as The Verge, Engadget, etc. are doing nothing more than consumer guide. It is a culture of “unboxing-porn”.

Technology journalists need to free themselves from the press releases. We need more critical analyses of technology trend and their socio-historical implications.

There are several reasons why tech journalists are not interested in critical analyses discussed in Eric Jackson article. Some of the most interesting reasons are:

1. It’s easier to report the news than having an opinion on it.

2. Young tech journalists don’t have much confidence in criticism topics.

3. Any reporter assigned a particular company to cover can’t bite the hand that feeds it. An obvious example is the suspicious relationship between Apple and Chris Ziegler, founding editor of The Verge. As the result, The Verge finally had to fire him.

4. Tech is ever-increasingly complex and that makes it difficult for reporters to stay up to date.

People, or even tech journalists, tend to think of tech criticism as something like Facebook is making us lonelyGoogle is making us stupid, or stories criticizing tech companies, then feel afraid of this topic.

But it is wrong!

Sara Watson proposes a new approach of tech criticism called “constructive tech criticism”. Criticism technology needn’t imprison itself in the world of gloomy stories. Instead, its role is to shape the future of technology.

Constructive technology criticism aims to bring stakeholders together in productive conversation rather than pitting them against each other… It offers readers the tools and framings for thinking about their relationship to technology and their relationship to power. Beyond intellectual arguments, constructive criticism is embodied, practical, and accessible, and it offers frameworks for living with technology.

Sara Watson’s approach defines a new way for journalists to devote their works. It emphasizes tech criticism’s capacity of opening a public sphere for people to discuss the future of technological societies and how we can go further.

Wired’s consultancy business might be a good example of this “constructive tech criticism”. This model paves way for a new approach to tech journalists’ duty and capacity. Instead of merely reporting tech news, tech journalists can use their critical knowledge to help tech companies overcome their obstacles, shape their future strategies, benefit consumers and foster the future of technology.

What do you think of the role of technology criticism? Feel free to share us your idea in the comment section below.