Navigating the Waters of Data-Driven Storytelling at SXSW Interactive 2018

Temerlin Advertising Institute graduate students Jessica Phillips and Catherine Scholl

Complexity, Complexity, Complexity

In an enlightening talk about data-driven storytelling, we heard from a panel of professionals about how they combine art and scientific data to execute seamless storytelling in their companies. The panel consisted of Renee Lightner, User Experience Technologist at Viacom, Russell Goldenberg, Editor at Polygraph / The Pudding, and Alex Simoes, CTO at Datawheel. Each member of the panel provided unique insight into perspectives and paradigms within data-driven storytelling through the lens of each of their respective disciplines.

Lightner opened by explaining the importance of online versus print graphics. Online graphics allow users to see the full picture and interact with the content, allowing for a better experience. A strategy she keyed in on was “complexity,” repeating a visual over and over so the reader grasps the content. Additionally, she said it’s important to allow the opportunity for the reader to explore the data on their own. Graphics should inform the reader while still allowing room for them to explore and take in the information at their own time in their own way.

Goldenberg explained the process that The Pudding goes through when providing content.

  • Start with an idea. Collect data. Analyze. Present.

The first three phases explore, while guidance is the final outcome. Great data does not matter – unless, it can be explained with a great guide. As we enter a world of AI with more data and more accurate data, consumers will be overwhelmed if it is not curated in meaningful ways.

Simoes’ approach to storytelling integrates data, extracts and matches entities and indicators, and builds integrated stories. Entities can be, for example, Los Angeles or coal mining, while the indicators within these categories can be something like exports or employment. Together, this information leads to integrated stories on the economy, education, health, etc. The outcome must be aggregated data that is easy to read, interactive, and entertaining. These three ideas seem to be a central theme to creating rich storytelling.

This panel was just one of so many incredible talks that we have attended this week. The atmosphere is absolutely electric as people immerse themselves in SXSW Interactive and all Austin has to offer.

About Steven Edwards

AA-ARTS(CommArts)
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