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

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

Skip to 0 minutes and 11 secondsRACHEL: 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 secondsRACHEL: 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 secondsJEREMY: Really nice. I think

Skip to 0 minutes and 34 secondsJEREMY: 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 secondsJEREMY: 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 secondsRACHEL: 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 secondsRACHEL: 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 secondsRACHEL: things that track our homes, we've got things to track our cars, all these kind of things.

Skip to 1 minute and 17 secondsRACHEL: 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 secondsRACHEL: 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 secondsRACHEL: 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 secondsRACHEL: all of that

Skip to 1 minute and 57 secondsRACHEL: 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 secondsRACHEL: has the very interesting idea of

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

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

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

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

Skip to 2 minutes and 27 secondsJEREMY: 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 secondsRACHEL: 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 secondsRACHEL: It was an art project in itself. So that's really nice.

Skip to 2 minutes and 45 secondsJEREMY: Yes, we're encouraging our learners to use Python and Matplotlib

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

Skip to 2 minutes and 54 secondsJEREMY: using wax crayons.

Skip to 2 minutes and 55 secondsRACHEL: Before that right.

Skip to 2 minutes and 56 secondsRACHEL: There's

Skip to 2 minutes and 56 secondsRACHEL: 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 secondsRACHEL: 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 secondsJEREMY: That's interesting. Yeah. So you would suggest that we should actually

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

Skip to 3 minutes and 26 secondsRACHEL: 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 secondsRACHEL: 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 secondsJEREMY: Different. Okay, thanks. So that's first recommendation. Dear Data. What's number two on your list?

Skip to 3 minutes and 52 secondsRACHEL: 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 secondsRACHEL: 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 secondsRACHEL: These are complete.

Skip to 4 minutes and 18 secondsRACHEL: 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 secondsJEREMY: Haha, I'm a latte man myself. Yeah.

Skip to 4 minutes and 34 secondsRACHEL: Yeah, I'm usually an espresso.

Skip to 4 minutes and 38 secondsRACHEL: I don't waste time, right?

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

Skip to 4 minutes and 46 secondsJEREMY: Yeah.

Skip to 4 minutes and 46 secondsRACHEL: 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 secondsRACHEL: 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 secondsRACHEL: 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 secondsRACHEL: So,

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

Skip to 5 minutes and 17 secondsRACHEL: 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 secondsJEREMY: 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 secondsRACHEL: Follow well

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

Skip to 5 minutes and 34 secondsJEREMY: Okay, cool. We'll Google that and find

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

Skip to 5 minutes and 42 secondsRACHEL: Thank you. So it's quite nice.

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

Skip to 5 minutes and 47 secondsRACHEL: 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 secondsRACHEL: 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 secondsRACHEL: 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 secondsRACHEL: 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 secondsRACHEL: 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 secondsJEREMY: Oh yes, that's one of my pet hates Right.

Skip to 6 minutes and 51 secondsRACHEL: 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 secondsRACHEL: 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 secondsRACHEL: And it's all about

Skip to 7 minutes and 12 secondsRACHEL: 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 secondsRACHEL: 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 secondsRACHEL: 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 secondsJEREMY: 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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