Interactive Storytelling Principles from the Tapestry Conference

On March 1st, Ingrid Orvedal, Q2 Impact’s Senior Monitoring and Evaluation Specialist attended the 2017 Tapestry Conference in St. Augustine, Florida. Tapestry is an event designed to advance interactive online data storytelling and brings together actors from different spaces to provoke ideas and get discussions going across disciplines.

Intrigued from the conference, Ingrid recounted: “The event was an eye-opener and helped ame understand that those across fields have the same challenges and concerns. It was fascinating to hear how others are currently approaching these issues.”

The key take-aways from the day-long event are as follows:

The first learning was that “Data and visualizations are NOT neutral”. Lena Groeger from ProPublica in her keynote speech emphasized the importance of recognizing the “unintentional ways our assumptions find their way into the data we collect and the story we tell.” Her data story was about inequities and some new technologies that help us recognize, call attention, and begin to address these inequities. Her favorite visualization Parable of the Polygon demonstrates through a series of interactive visualizations the story of how small and seemingly harmless choices can make a harmful world – such a neat idea!

Other key ideas shared by presenters were focused on audience engagement and perception.

  • Developing creative data literacy by framing your audience – using repetition, pictures and a story line – to help motivate people better understand and make meaning out of data.
  • Showing clients or users data in different formats may give them more comfort in using data, for example translating traditional, point in time static data to a Data Movie bringing vaccination data to life for audiences who could use this information for planning.
  • More structured questions and framework are likely to give the audience better and more focused answers to their ‘So what?’ questions.

And finally, there is evidence from cognitive psychology to help us understand what makes visualizations effective for viewers/users! Michell Borkin shared findings from her research on memorability and recall and highlighted key design principles that made for improved recall.

  • Use a descriptive and concise title
  • Pictures and color improve recall
  • Use multiple ways of conveying the main points

The Tapestry Conference was an enriching platform where different viewpoints were brought together with the goal of generating a rich conversation about data storytelling. Ingrid’s insights from the event are timely with Q2 Impact’s growing initiatives within data hub and data visualization.