Data has to be open

Am 24.11.2012 von Florian Fodermeyer

According to Larry Adams, the Vice Pesident Product at Narrative Science, narratives give a much better idea of how visuals actually have to be read – and anybody who ever read a comic will surely agree on that.

Larry Adams, Narrative Science Inc.

“There is a literacy problem with interpreting dynamic data.” –Larry Adams

With data you have to calculate. With charts you have to interpret. With stories you just have to read.“ According to Larry Adams, the Vice Pesident Product at Narrative Science, narratives give a much better idea of how visuals actually have to be read – and anybody who ever read a comic will surely agree on that.

The problem about having vast amounts of data points in an excel sheet for example is that the human brain cannot quickly discover trends, exceptions or anomalies. We have to look at it very carefully and concentrate on the differences between columns and rows. Therefor we transform this raw numeric data and use graphs that help us to visualize the connection between the single data points. Graphs can be really useful to understand certain patterns a bit better but we still have to interpret the chart ourselves. In these cases „narratives can be a very suitable way to support the reader how the chart has to be interpreted“ says Larry Adams. With only little narrative support the graph or any visual can be fully understood and will even be remembered a lot better as there is already a connection between word and picture which make it a very sticky memory.

Narration is a very old cultural habit and for centuries the art of storytelling has been used to pass information on to others and been proven to be very effective. According to Phil Parker there are only ten types of stories in the world like „the romance“, „the fatal flaw“ or the „gift taken away.“ These recurrent patterns in telling a story make it very easy for humans to quickly grasp the sense of a story. So whenever there is a huge amount of (open) data at hand Larry and his colleagues at Narrative Science will try to transform data into stories and insight because „big data is a mess and only stories expose the insights that tables and graphs simply cannot.“

“Data has to be open and machine-readable per default.” – Larry Adams

There are still other problem in dealing with open data though: especially governments and institutions are reluctant to open themselves and their data to the public and provide it in a way which is useful. Larry Adam states that if we wanted to drive innovation and enable creative solutions on the basis of huge amounts of data it just „has to be open and machine-readable per default“.

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