Don’t let data get in the way of a good story
Mark Madsen, Third Nature
Storytelling is not about raising someone’s IQ, it’s about raising their blood pressure. Stories engage emotions rather than intellect, making “storytelling with data” a poor metaphor for data visualization when our goal is to communicate clearly.
People are often confused or misled by “story”, thinking they need a classical story structure with protagonists, action and resolution when the job may be simpler, or more complicated. Some of the storytelling tools and suggestions vendors promote would get you kicked out of your boss’s office you used them without taking into account their goals and context.
Narrative is what we are really talking about, not story. We need to focus our attention on narrative techniques rather than “story” and its forced linear structure. This means understanding why we want to communicate: is it to explain, to build shared understanding, to convince others that our interpretation is the right one?
We use visualization as a tool for many different purposes, communication being one. The idea of narratives with data is a good one, but not all narrative is story. The purpose of this talk is to provide clarity around the goals of communicating with data and to provide a goal-oriented framework that escapes the bad metaphorical frame imposed by “storytelling”.
Mark Madsen is president of Third Nature, a technology consulting and market research firm focused on business intelligence, data integration, and data management. Mark is an award-winning architect and former CTO whose work has been featured in numerous industry publications. He is a principal author of Clickstream Data Warehousing (John Wiley & Sons, 2002) and frequently speaks at conferences and writes about business intelligence and emerging technology.