• Sean Keenan


Dear Data #1

Dear Data #1: Back

Dear Data 2

Dear Data #2: Back

Dear Data #3

Dear Data #3: back

Throughout the past seven weeks, I’ve learned quite a bit about both personal and public data collection, cleaning and visualizing.

Personal vs Public Data

In terms of personal data, I’ve learned how to get good, accurate data, you need to be dedicated to tracking and collecting that data. Any inaccuracies or missed data can easily alter the final set of data. I’ve also found that you can’t focus on visualization before you have a solid set of data. If you are too attached to a specific visual idea, it can both affect your data and cause you not to present your data in an appealing way.

With public data, I’ve learned visualizing the data can often be the easiest part. With the multitude of different data visualization tools out there, taking fully cleaned and accurate data and turning it to the proper visual is often user friendly. The difficulty often comes from both cleaning the data and especially finding accurate data. Through my experience, data sources can often be hard to come, with many articles simply just saying the data but not sourcing it and only focusing on what they feel are the most interesting parts of the data. This can make it extremely difficult to tell if the data is both accurate, as well as comprehensive, as it’s often a struggle to find the original source.

Technical vs Manual

Nowadays, most data visuals are often of the technical kind, using some sort tool to make a clean and concise visual. For these seven weeks, I’ve mainly been using the tool Datawrapper. One of the biggest benefits of tools like these is that it makes it fairly easy to plug and play with the data. After you get past the initial struggle of trying to understand the technicalities of it, it’s easy to start placing data and find the visual you feel works best. It’s also nice that for large data stories, it makes all the visuals one uniformed style.

For manual data visuals though, one big benefit it has is freedom. While it’s nice to just plug the data in and get a visual, there’s only so much freedom you can get. With a manual visual, since you're drawing it, you can pretty much do whatever you can draw. This can be more difficult and time consuming, though it opens up the opportunity for some fun looking visuals. It also lets you avoid annoying technical problems such as the program not reading your data correctly or not being able to move a certain bar or graph to the spot you want.

Data Stories

The most interesting part of data is how it can be used to tell and enhance a story. In terms of dear data, it’s nothing too complex, but having a variety of differently weekly forms of data can almost turn your life into a story in some way. In any story, every character has their habits and interests and a weekly data story tracking these gives a more accurate look at these traits for your own life. It lets you see things such as how often you perform your habits and how much enjoyment you gain out of them. This can give you an idea of what your own personal story and character is in a more accurate way.

For more complex stories, such as this, data is often the backbone of the story. If there’s not an accurate and meaningful set of data, it can often make your story feel inaccurate, almost like fiction in a way. By having data though, it gives you both proof, as well as an avenue to either keep moving forward with your story, or rework it using the data. It also improves the story for the viewer, giving them context as well as a wide variety of visuals to keep their interest. This can take what was normally a simple, potentially dull story, to something someone can see tangible evidence for and get invested.

The future

I feel no matter your career, you can also use data in some way. Whether it be construction work, office work, or creative work, data will always play a part in them in some way. For me personally, the main skills I feel I can use from this class is the ability to visualize data. There’s probably multiple scenarios in the future where i’ll have data given to me or data i’ve found, so my ability to visualize will be useful for scenarios such as those. I also feel these abilities will come in handy in terms of enhancing my creativity. Being limited to a specific set of data and having to make a compelling visualization challenges you to think of something unique, which enhances how you think creatively.

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© 2020 by Sean Keenan.