Wick Communications

Seven genres of visualization

In Online media on 26 Nov 2010 at 10:29 am

And now, for some light reading, I offer Edward Segel and Jeffrey Heer’s academic paper on “data stories.”

OK. I don’t expect you to read all this (although, it’s not too terribly tough to get through.) I just wanted to note that there is incredibly serious thought going into the difference between how we experience traditional narratives and how readers best relate to the new online data stories that are emerging.

Segel and Heer are Stanford guys who identified seven “genres of narrative visualization.” In other words, they observed seven existing ways in which online storytellers are attempting to get their messages across. Some of them – if not all of them – will surely look familiar to you.

Here’s the takeaway for me: Readers and storytellers are often at odds in the storytelling process. The paper’s authors find that storytellers like ourselves prefer linear devices – typical news stories with beginnings, middles and ends or even slideshows that advance from one image to the next – and often couldn’t care less for interactivity. After all, we have something we want to say… we aren’t looking to listen…

Readers, of course, often have other ideas. A reader-driven approach makes way for lots of back and forth and isn’t beholden to some narrative device that begins at the beginning.

I realize this may be sort of esoteric. But it’s food for thought. And thanks to the 10,000 Words blog for bringing this to my attention.


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