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Skip to 0 minutes and 4 seconds JEREMY: Hello, Rachel. Nice to see you.

Skip to 0 minutes and 7 seconds JEREMY: Could you please introduce yourself to our audience?

Skip to 0 minutes and 11 seconds RACHEL: Of course I can. So my name is Rachel Menzies. I’m a senior lecturer in computing at the University of Dundee

Skip to 0 minutes and 17 seconds RACHEL: And as part of that I have, in the past, taught data visualization as part of a first year class and now I kind of teach it to my students as they go along so that their projects can tell good stories. So that’s why it’s important.

Skip to 0 minutes and 30 seconds JEREMY: Really nice. I think

Skip to 0 minutes and 34 seconds JEREMY: The storytelling aspect of of data visualization is really important. And I know you’ve got some book recommendations for us and

Skip to 0 minutes and 44 seconds JEREMY: One of them is very much about telling stories, isn’t it? Can you give us some some hints about what we might want to be reading, if we’re interested in data visualization?

Skip to 0 minutes and 54 seconds RACHEL: Yeah, sure. So I think that where I come from, with data visualization is that data is everywhere. And you can tell whatever story you want from data.

Skip to 1 minute and 5 seconds RACHEL: And a lot of data is very personal. So people collect a lot of data about themselves. So we’ve got fitbits, we’ve got

Skip to 1 minute and 12 seconds RACHEL: things that track our homes, we’ve got things to track our cars, all these kind of things.

Skip to 1 minute and 17 seconds RACHEL: And it’s hard sometimes to take that out of the digital realm. So the first book that I want to recommend is a book called Dear Data.

Skip to 1 minute and 25 seconds RACHEL: And Dear Data is a book about two people who created postcards, so they live apart. One lives in Italy and one lives, I think, in America. I’m not sure, but they basically sent postcards to each other that

Skip to 1 minute and 41 seconds RACHEL: represented data about their weeks. So things like how many times did you cross the road? How many red cars did you see? So very simple things. But then they created a data visualization on a postcard. And this idea of just taking

Skip to 1 minute and 56 seconds RACHEL: all of that

Skip to 1 minute and 57 seconds RACHEL: data and putting it on just one small bit of cardboard is just so exciting. So they spent a year basically sending these postcards back and forth across the Atlantic, so Dear Data

Skip to 2 minutes and 8 seconds RACHEL: has the very interesting idea of

Skip to 2 minutes and 10 seconds RACHEL: Bringing in your own data to life. Is a really

Skip to 2 minutes and 13 seconds JEREMY: That’s a very powerful idea isn’t it if you can somehow capture

Skip to 2 minutes and 19 seconds JEREMY: data in such a compressed format, how big is a postcard just, you know,

Skip to 2 minutes and 26 seconds RACHEL: Quarter of an A4.

Skip to 2 minutes and 27 seconds JEREMY: Yeah, yeah, I suppose so. Yeah, that’s right. And presumably, they spent a fortune on stamps as well. Did they?

Skip to 2 minutes and 33 seconds RACHEL: Presumably, what’s good about it is that they created them all. Just with pen and paper. So it wasn’t like it was a digital creation.

Skip to 2 minutes and 42 seconds RACHEL: It was an art project in itself. So that’s really nice.

Skip to 2 minutes and 45 seconds JEREMY: Yes, we’re encouraging our learners to use Python and Matplotlib

Skip to 2 minutes and 49 seconds JEREMY: to do all their visualizations, but actually you could get away with just

Skip to 2 minutes and 54 seconds JEREMY: using wax crayons.

Skip to 2 minutes and 55 seconds RACHEL: Before that right.

Skip to 2 minutes and 56 seconds RACHEL: There’s

Skip to 2 minutes and 56 seconds RACHEL: A stage before you get to creating the digital version where you have to figure out what are the things I want to tell

Skip to 3 minutes and 3 seconds RACHEL: What’s the story in there and sketch it out. And for me that sketching point is really important because if the sketch doesn’t work. Your Python is just an exploration. So

Skip to 3 minutes and 14 seconds JEREMY: That’s interesting. Yeah. So you would suggest that we should actually

Skip to 3 minutes and 19 seconds JEREMY: hand-draw or kind of draft our visualizations before you can think about

Skip to 3 minutes and 26 seconds RACHEL: When you do that, that’s when you realize that, oh, maybe people may not understand this, or a misunderstanding becomes clearer when you’re trying to draw because often it’s to do with scale.

Skip to 3 minutes and 37 seconds RACHEL: Like if you’re just drawing on a bit of paper, you have to really think about the scale on your axes and all this sort of stuff which is …

Skip to 3 minutes and 44 seconds JEREMY: Different. Okay, thanks. So that’s first recommendation. Dear Data. What’s number two on your list?

Skip to 3 minutes and 52 seconds RACHEL: Number two, on my list is books by a guy called David McCandless called Information is Beautiful and Knowledge is Beautiful. And again, this is about things that you might

Skip to 4 minutes and 4 seconds RACHEL: See every day. You may see things in the news and it’s taking those and making them into really pretty pictures. So where the Dear Data stuff was kind of people sketched ideas.

Skip to 4 minutes and 16 seconds RACHEL: These are complete.

Skip to 4 minutes and 18 seconds RACHEL: Visualizations so some of them take like a page or two pages worth to show you the information. Things like how much coffee and milk are in different types of coffee.

Skip to 4 minutes and 30 seconds JEREMY: Haha, I’m a latte man myself. Yeah.

Skip to 4 minutes and 34 seconds RACHEL: Yeah, I’m usually an espresso.

Skip to 4 minutes and 38 seconds RACHEL: I don’t waste time, right?

Skip to 4 minutes and 40 seconds RACHEL: So, but that’s interesting because the concept behind that is just a stacked bar chart.

Skip to 4 minutes and 46 seconds JEREMY: Yeah.

Skip to 4 minutes and 46 seconds RACHEL: So if you can start if you’re learning about data. It’s a really good way to start thinking about what is the

Skip to 4 minutes and 52 seconds RACHEL: basis behind all of these visualizations. There’s a really interesting one on the cover about the use of colour and what colour means in different cultures.

Skip to 5 minutes and 3 seconds RACHEL: So like for in the Western world, black is a symbol that we associate with death and mourning, but in other cultures that colour is white.

Skip to 5 minutes and 12 seconds RACHEL: So,

Skip to 5 minutes and 12 seconds RACHEL: The Information is Beautiful cover is actually that visualization

Skip to 5 minutes and 17 seconds RACHEL: Which is really, but it just looks like pretty art when you see it at first, but actually there is a meaning behind it. So.

Skip to 5 minutes and 25 seconds JEREMY: Information is Beautiful. David McCandless. There’s a website to go with that as well. I think isn’t there. we should look that it.

Skip to 5 minutes and 31 seconds RACHEL: Follow well

Skip to 5 minutes and 32 seconds RACHEL: Just information is beautiful. I guess..

Skip to 5 minutes and 34 seconds JEREMY: Okay, cool. We’ll Google that and find

Skip to 5 minutes and 36 seconds RACHEL: Google that but yeah that contains a lot of the visualizations and a lot of stories behind

Skip to 5 minutes and 42 seconds RACHEL: Thank you. So it’s quite nice.

Skip to 5 minutes and 44 seconds JEREMY: So number three on your list, please, Rachel.

Skip to 5 minutes and 47 seconds RACHEL: And number three is the final item on my list is going back to this idea from Information is Beautiful about how you take a basic concept and turn it into something really interesting

Skip to 6 minutes and 2 seconds RACHEL: There’s a book called Handbook for Data Driven Design and it’s by Andy Kirk and that explores a lot of the kind of psychology or understanding that people have of different types of visualization

Skip to 6 minutes and 15 seconds RACHEL: So, for example, people find it very difficult to tell the difference between sizes of circles, but you can tell very easily the difference between lengths of bars.

Skip to 6 minutes and 25 seconds RACHEL: So it’s about how do you make your message clear so he had some information there about the psychology behind how people understand these things; he has information on how you tell the story. What do you want to tell? and lots of examples of where it goes wrong.

Skip to 6 minutes and 42 seconds RACHEL: You know axes cut off to make it look like the difference is bigger than it is all that

Skip to 6 minutes and 46 seconds JEREMY: Oh yes, that’s one of my pet hates Right.

Skip to 6 minutes and 51 seconds RACHEL: What I would call probably like dark data visualizations, in the same way that you would have dark UX

Skip to 6 minutes and 57 seconds RACHEL: And dark design patterns that would occur trick people into thinking about different things, but yeah. His theory is that he is an educator. He runs a lot of data visualization classes.

Skip to 7 minutes and 10 seconds RACHEL: And it’s all about

Skip to 7 minutes and 12 seconds RACHEL: using the data to tell the story. So his Twitter is really good. So his Twitter is @ visualizing data.

Skip to 7 minutes and 19 seconds RACHEL: And if you look on there. There’s a link on there to a podcast. So he’s starting a podcast.

Skip to 7 minutes and 25 seconds RACHEL: Which is about exploring and explaining. So it’s a video series and a podcast series. So I’m excited to see what comes out of that podcast.

Skip to 7 minutes and 34 seconds JEREMY: Cool. Oh. Thanks, Rachel. So we came to you for book recommendations, we’ve ended up with podcast recommendations too. Brilliant! Thanks very much.

Recommended reading

In this video interview, Jeremy talks with Dr Rachel Menzies from the University of Dundee. They discuss three recommendations for further reading about data visualization.

Each of the books recommended by Rachel has an associated website - check out the links below. You can see some of the authors’ visualizations directly on the web, as well as getting details about the books themselves.

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This video is from the free online course:

Getting Started with Teaching Data Science in Schools

The University of Glasgow