3 Graphic Insights: Alberto Cairo on Successful Applications of Data Visualization

by Naomi House, MLIS

3 Graphic Insights: Alberto Cairo on Successful Applications of Data Visualization

albertocAs many of you know I work in a library at a federal government facility that specializes in statistics.  This means that I am often privileged with being able to see some of the cutting edge experts in fields such as data visualization, speak.  Last week Alberto Cairo, University of Miami professor in their School of Communication, gave a presentation called Graphic Insights: How scientists and communicators can work together to produce better visualizations and agreed to let me share some of my key take-aways with INALJ.

  1. Be sure you know the story you are trying to tell.  The same data can tell vastly different stories so be certain that the visualization you create (chart, graph, etc) tells the story you want it to tell.  In other words, what is your headline or main point?
  2. Consider the morality and ethics of what you are trying to convey first.  An old saying goes, is it true, is it kind, is it necessary?  The story may be true but what are the implications and is it ethical to share this particular story?  How you tell a story can greatly affect how it is perceived.  Stories can change lives, so be careful and cautious when presenting.
  3. Teach yourself and your patrons how to read data visualizations!  This is key for info pros like librarians that we educate our patrons on how to read these stories as infographics are increasingly being used as communication tools.  He provided the XKCD comic as an example we can use with patrons to show them, just because several news data maps are true does not make them related.

He gave many fantastic examples and heavily influenced my own choice of charts in the May 2013 INALJ stats article, and I highly recommend that you join him in his Twitter conversations @albertocairo and also check out his personal website The Functional Art and companion must read book also called The Functional Art.

What are some of your favorite Data Visualization tools?

 photo taken from http://com.miami.edu/profile/Cairo,Alberto


Naomi House

Naomi House, MLIS, is the founder and publisher of the popular LIS jobs resource INALJ.com (formerly I Need a Library Job). Founded in October 2010 with the assistance of her fellow Rutgers classmate, Elizabeth Leonard, INALJ’s social media presence has grown to include Facebook (retired in 2016), Twitter and a LinkedIn group, in addition to the interviews, articles and jobs found on INALJ.com. INALJ has had over 20 Million page views and helped thousands of librarians and LIS folk find employment! Through grassroots marketing, word of mouth and a real focus on exploring unconventional resources for job leads, INALJ grew from a subscription base of 20 friends to a website with over 500,000 visits in a month. Naomi believes that well-sourced quantity is quality in this narrow job market and INALJ reflects this many new jobs published daily. She was a 2013 Library Journal Mover & Shaker and has served on the University of Maryland iSchool Board from 2014-2017. Naomi was a Reference, Marketing and Acquisitions Librarian for a contractor at a federal library outside Washington, DC, and now lives part time in Western NY and Budapest, Hungary. She has heard of spare time but hasn’t encountered it lately. She pronounces INALJ as eye-na-elle-jay.