Not so interactive slideshow

In their article Narrative Visualization: Telling Stories with Data (pdf) – that I found thanks to this must-see interactive movie about data journalism – Edward Segel and Jeffrey Heer define 7 basic genres of narrative visualization (magazine style, annotated chart, partitioned poster, flow chart, comic strip, slideshow, and film/video/animation) and three schemas that are widely used to tell stories with (visual) data:

  • The Martini Glass structure; a linear narrative that only allows user interaction when the story is finished,
  • The Drill-Down Story; a presentation that lets the user dictate what stories are told and when, without a prescribed ordering.
  • The Interactive Slideshow; a regular slideshow that incorporates interaction on its slides.

That last model obviously was what The Guardian had in mind when it decided to create an interactive about the trapped miners in Chili. A good idea, but the implementation is a bit sloppy. It’s for example easy to miss the tiny ‘next’ button at the bottom because the slideshow hardly fits on the screen of a laptop. The slides are heavy loaded with text but miss headings that guide you through the story. And isn’t a ‘back’ button a basic requirement for an interactive slideshow?

Telling stories with data, the movie

After the nice video portrait of the graphic department of the New York Times in July and the very inspiring TED-talk by David McCandless in August, September brings us the ultimate video about telling stories with data. Geoff McGhee, who worked at The New York Times, ABCNews.com, and Le Monde Interactif, spent a year at Stanford University studying data visualization. The result: a must-see interactive documentary about Journalism in the Age of Data.

Augmented infographics

For over thirty years scholars have been trying to define interactivity – with still no consensus in sight. One definition of the concept focus on the potential ability of users to exert an influence on the content and/or form of the mediated communication (see for example Steuer (1992) and Jensen (1998, pdf)). Following this conceptualization, augmented reality can be considered to be a kind of interactivity, because it allows users to influence what they see in reality by using a (mobile) device. German student Mark Lukas created a prototype to show how the technique could be used to add a third dimension to infographics in a book. Nice. (via)

Why a blog about interactives?

Congratulations, you’ve found it! You really must have put in some effort to reach this site, considering it has only just been launched. Of course there’s good chance you drop by accidentally. In both cases you may be wondering why somebody starts a blog about interactive infographics. Actually there are three reasons. But before I explain, let me introduce myself. My name is Bas Broekhuizen. I’m a teacher and a researcher at Leiden University in The Netherlands. I work for two departments: Journalism & New Media and Science, Communication & Society. Before, I was a journalist at de Volkskrant, a daily Dutch newspaper.

The first purpose of this blog is to collect interactive infographics, or interactives as they are also called. When I started as a web editor in 1999, interactives were one of the promises of the web. Although I’m neither a designer nor a trained programmer I did some experiments myself and I firmly believed interactives would soon be ubiquitous on the web. But now, more then ten years later, they are still a bit rare. There are some very good websites that showcase infographics and examples of information visualization (Infosthetics, Eagereyes, Flowingdata and Visualcomplexity to name just a few), but I’ve not yet found one that focuses specifically on the aspect of interactivity (and if I overlooked one, please let me know). So I’ve decided to create one myself.

The second reason I started this site has to do with my research. Two years ago I left the newspaper and started to teach courses on online journalism at university. I’m still interested in interactives, but from a different perspective. Now I try to look at them as a scholar, and ask questions about the effectiveness of interactivity in infographics. Actually I’m writing a PhD thesis on this very subject, but I’m afraid it will take some time before that will be fit to print. On this blog I hope to share some of my thought on interactivity and information visualization along the way.

The final reason has to do with you. Trough this blog I hope to meet other people interested in interactivity and visual communication. People who like to help finding good or bad examples of interactives, who can shoot holes in my ideas or share some of their own. So please don’t hesitate to comment. After all, it’s all about interactivity…