Dear Data: Personal Connection through Data Collection

Dear Data: To Draw is to Remember

Infographics done right fascinate me, particularly if they tell a story from the data. Cold data analysis … does nothing for me. In the amazing book Dear Data, graphic designers Stefanie Posavec and Giorgia Lupi document a year of postcards between themselves, sharing personal data in hand-drawn styles. Their 52-week journey of documenting and share is a reminder of how we might be able to uncover insights into ourselves, and each other, by paying more attention.

In fact, over at the Connected Learning MOOC community, a number of us are using Dear Data as a launching and inspirational point for sharing Data Postcards in the coming year. Some of us sent out Resolution Data postcards in January and “love” is the theme of February, and we are using Lupi and Posavec’s work as our starting point, to some degree.

This is my workspace the other day, as I was working on my data postcards, which I sent to different parts of the world. I sort of cheated by not doing every one by hand, but this is how I got it to work for me.

Making Data Postcards for CLMOOC

The two developed weekly themes that they built their data collection on, from the opening theme of “clocks” to observing urban animals (week 34) to a week of distractions (week 44) to a week of goodbyes (week 52, of course). Along with sharing the postcards, the two write about their experiences, from the difficulties of coming up with data representations to the celebration of sharing to insights they gained about their personal worlds through such an endeavor.

I also appreciated the insights at the end of the book, where the two outline some suggestions for others, such as:

  • See the world as a data collector
  • Begin with a question
  • Gather and spend time with your data
  • Organize and categorize it
  • Find the main story that the data tells
  • Share the data and the story

We don’t need to leave it to our machines and our computers and vast programming ventures to gather our world. We can do it ourselves. Lupi and Posavec show us the power of connections between people, and how to humanize the data, as a means to strengthen insights and understanding through a very visual means.

What’s your data?

Peace (it’s not just numbers),


#NetNarr: Can Data Help Us Tell a Story?

Data Storytelling

Terry Elliott shared this Ted Talk out, via Vialogues for annotation, and I really appreciated the ways that Ben Wellington uses storytelling as the frame for using data in meaningful ways. I am following Terry into an online course about data storytelling for journalism (he is in there, to learn more about teaching his university students and I am in there … because I am curious about data as the means for crafting stories), in hopes it might dovetail into the concurrent open course around Networked Narratives.

I have no idea how those two ideas will merge together, and yet, it seems like there might a fit for finding ways to use information around us in the real world to craft stories about or in the digital world, with all of the nooks and crannies of collaboration and creativity that #NetNarr might provide (it’s hard to say, since the course has only just sort of started).

One of the central tasks in the first post for #NetNarr is to define storytelling, since #NetNarr is hovering over the concept of Digital Storytelling, in the vein of DS106. My initial, non-Google-it, response is that storytelling is the act of making sense of the known and unknown world through layered compositional practices (talking, writing, using media, etc.) That sounds awfully academic to my ears as I read it quietly. Or, how about this: A good story entertains while also informs the reader/listener/player about the larger workings of the world.

Still working it out. Meanwhile, check out Ben Wellington.

Here is Terry’s Vialogue version, and he invites you to join in an annotated conversation about this juxtaposition of data collection and storytelling as a means to make sense of the world. Daniel Bassill, Wendy Taleo, others and I have already jumped in with Terry. You come, too.

Peace (make sense of it),