Exploring rather than distilling information

Anecdotes and human interest stories dominate human communication. When trying to make a point clear, examples of how the same situation affected someone else seems to make the point more clear, real and tangible. News stories are rarely about analysis of trends or statistical significance. The news needs to make a point after all, so the standard format of a story is to begin with a general idea (“crime is getting worse in the city”), but then to demonstrate the idea with one or two family testimonials. But wait! Couldn’t we impose bias on the listener by only showing a handful of perspectives – especially when those perspectives are chosen to support a premise?

I am interested in what it takes to tell both a convincing and an accurate story. Especially with maps and graphics. The nightly news, talk shows and Congressional charts are not good examples. These take such a myopic, over-distilled view of information that they don’t deliver any content beyond the presenter’s own biases. Then how do we create analysis tools that encourage more Tufte-like perspective? How do we build exploratory tools, or even games with a purpose, that make if far more likely that a user will discover the truth hidden in information?

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