Data Visualization & Education: Is a Graphic Video Enough?

In a blog post written by Keith Hampson, PhD, he notes that design (i.e. data visualization) and education seek the same objection: to make the complex simple. He further explains that in both education and data visualization, you want to keep the viewer engaged and “maximize their retention of information.”

I am currently taking a class that studies global iconic events, and each class period students present on different events and how they’re covered in the media. Some of these events are very complex with many moving parts, such as the Iraq War and the Syrian refugee crisis. As a way to explain these events, some student presenters found a YouTube page called In a Nutshell – Kurzgesgat. This page is full of videos that educate the public on varying topics and boils it down in six minutes or less with animated graphics.

Screen Shot 2015-11-03 at 10.26.35 PM

The video explaining Iraq provides enough information to educate the general public. Since this topic is complex and, to some, boring, the animated graphics and overall presentation of the video make the information attainable and interesting. Moreover, the data presented is visual and easily understandable. Therefore, it is effective in maximizing viewer information retention. Below are a few screenshots from the video to highlight the effectiveness of their data visualization tactic of using animated graphics:

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Although this method is very effective in educating the general public on a complex topic, it vastly differs from traditional journalism in its presentation. The way traditional journalists use data visualization to educate their audience is through maps or graphs, whereas this video uses interactive, colorful, animated pieces to display its data and get the message across to viewers. However, one shortcoming to this method of boiled down, visual videos is that the viewer doesn’t understand the implications of this event and what it means to policy makers, or how that may directly affect the viewer.


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