Lecture Pod 5 – Data Journalism

Olympic Medal Tables.png

*This image was taken from the lecture about data journalism in action at the London      Olympics (referenced at the end)

This lecture was all about data journalism, what it is, its history and its use in something like the Olympics. The key definition here is that data journalism is telling a story using data to bolster your argument or point of view. The point of data journalism is to tell a story in a way that will keep the reader entertained.  The good thing about data journalism is that it can (to a degree) take opinions out of the news and leave you with cold hard facts. There is almost always something to do with data in most stories. Now data journalism is just journalism because people don’t trust reporters anymore, they need to bolster their arguments through data.

There is a myth that data journalism did not exist before 2009, that is not true. Data journalism has been used ever since the first issue of the guardian back in the 1800’s. It has always been a part of the news, it has just been recently popularised. Even just using text and simple lines could be considered an effective data visualisation. These data visualisations have often been used to explain things about war to the public.

The Olympics are a good example of data visualisation. Everyone wants to know who is the best, using medal tables. But this data may not tell the whole story. If this data was corrected against things like GDP or population what effect would that have on the medal tally? A visualisation like this was made by the Guardian for the 2012 Olympics. It allowed people to interrogate the data themselves and it could be updated in real time.

The most important point in here though is the speed a data visualisation can now be produced at. This speed was not available 20 or 30 years ago while now we can do them fast and they can be updated in real time, they are not fixed which is a great asset to have when covering something ongoing, like the Olympic medal tables.


Data journalism in action: the London Olympics. (2016). YouTube. Retrieved 15 October 2016, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WyjBJzigm0w

History of Data Journalism at The Guardian. (2016). YouTube. Retrieved 15 October 2016, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iIa5EoxyvZI

What is data journalism at The Guardian?. (2016). YouTube. Retrieved 15 October 2016, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IBOhZn28TsE


Lecture Pod 3 – Visualisation: Historical and Contemporary Visualisation Methods


*This image was taken from the lecture.

This lecture pod was about why we use data visualisations at all and its various used throughout our history. This lecture showed various historical uses of data visualisation like the visualisation of Napoleon’s invasion of Moscow, Florence Nightingales charts of causes for death among British soldiers, Otto Neurath’s , and serialised charts all the way to the recent work by Alberto Cairo, The Functional Art.

Numerous key points made in this lecture which all related to the historical examples given. The first was the visualisation is used to an audience grasp complex ideas and difficult concepts quickly. Other points similar to this are made like extracting meaning from raw data is difficult, but a graphic makes it simple, saving us time and effort. Another point made is that a visualisations aim is for your eyes and you brain to perceive what lies beyond their natural reach. Another good point made in the lecture is that data visualisations are more complex today because we have access to much more data than ever before.

But I believe the most important point made in this lecture was really very simple, that what you show in a visualisation can be just as important as what you don’t. This point struck home for me because it made me realise that sometimes showing only a small amount of data can be more effective than showing all of it. But it also made me realise something else, just how easy it is to convince people of a statistic through the simple fact or omitting it from a visualisation.


Cmielewski, L. (2016). Visualisation: Historical and contemporary visualisation methods- Part 1. Retrieved from https://vimeo.com/176255824

Cmielewski, L. (2016). Visualisation: Historical and contemporary visualisation methods- Part 2. Retrieved from https://vimeo.com/176255825