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Data Gets a Makeover

By Stephanie South, Program Associate, AASCU

Whether you are doing it to help your students better grasp course material or telling the story of a project’s impact in your community, chances are you’re using data to convey information.

Understanding this, as well as the fact that data by itself can often be difficult to comprehend and unappealing to digest, we attended a webinar this fall regarding data visualization. Data visualization is a way to make all those facts and figures a bit sexier and perfectly packaged to persuade.

Presented by the Knight Digital Media Center, Lisa Williams’ webinar (she’s the founder and CEO of Placeblogger) was entitled, “Diving Into Data: A State-of-the-Art Tour in Civic Data Visualization.”

While Williams’ presentation did in fact make a case for the use of data visualization, its real worth was found in the myths it debunked and the inspiration and resources it provided.

For those of you who may not be aware of what we mean by “data visualization,” the Sunlight Foundation’s Tumblr offers both excellent examples and inspiration.

Before further pursuing this blog entry and perusing the resources offered in this webinar, it is important to remember that the following things are not true:

  • Data visualization is new.
  • Regular people don’t want data.
  • Data is boring.
  • Data visualization is too hard for regular folks to learn.

Below you will find some resources referenced in the webinar, followed by a brief description. They are useful for finding data, visually representing information, and sharing that with others.

Find it. can help you locate a variety of information. The site aims to be the most comprehensive list of open data catalogs in the world. It is curated by a group of leading open data experts from around the world—including representatives from local, regional and national governments, international organizations such as the World Bank, and numerous NGOs.  Faculty and students alike may find this useful for research.

Create it. Many eyes is a data visualization tool from IBM. The site allows users to upload data and then produce graphic representations for others to view and comment upon. Tableau Public allows a user create interactive graphs, dashboards, maps and tables from virtually any data and embed them on your website or blog in minutes

Share it. Buzz data is a place on the web to store and share important spreadsheets, other files, and artifacts like links and data visualizations in a way that makes them come alive. They offer a fresh way to communicate knowledge and insight, rather than just sharing files.

Interested in learning more? Visualize Thisis a practical guide on visualization and how to approach real-world data.

Happy visualizing!

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