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What Happens When Data, Visuals and Emotions Intersect: Stories That Delight

Can data bring the best in humanity? Can it evoke emotions? Can it speak to us?

Every time I walk by a memorial wall, I am filled with visuals. Some folks run their fingers on the wall and when they spot a dear one’s name, a feeling of acknowledgement envelops their face. Many others stand in front of the wall to capture their own memories with their camera.

 As I watch the wall, I stand in awe. The combination of symbolism of the wall in totality and a tribute to each individual with their names chiseled on the wall moves me. The very idea that every person matters within the bigger calling the wall represents is endearing to me.

I found the same feelings when I saw a novel visualization of data – in the shape of an eye or peacock feather, picture below.

                 

The horizontal line is human lifespan up to 100 years. Each arc that form the eye represents a person! The orange part of the arc is the years they lived and the light grey lines represent they would have lived in normal course. On the interactive version of the graph, you can click on each arc and it transports us to a newspaper article related to that person.

The idea of this visual warmed my heart for what it stood for – each individual matters within the larger message, just like a memorial wall. 

Think Different on Data

When we think about data in a traditional sense, Om Malik’s quote comes to mind. “Data is used like a blunt instrument, a scythe trying to cut and tailor a cashmere sweater.” What happens if we think different, really different about how we feel data?

By conceiving each person’s life as an arc instead of dots on a number line, some folks  (through their passion for story telling with data) could bring home the feel of a memorial wall. In another example - by re-imagining the geeky data on a Facebook page into fern leaves, Cedric Kiefer could morph numbers into a visual. In both cases, their passion for the intersection of creative art and digital data visualization shone through.

In all this, only one thing is clear: When your passion intersects with opportunity, magic happens. The visuals are a testament.  

The more you are self aware of your passion, the more you roll into opportunities to create magic.  The bigger question is, "are you self aware?"

Signing off 

Karthik Rajan

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