In two days, 60 developers, journalists, and data experts will be converging on the MIT Media Lab to spend 24 hours collaborating, sketching, and building new tools and concepts to help move from data to stories.
It feels like we’re entering a golden age of data. As we arrive at more sophisticated tools to manipulate and visualize it, and as we understand what we can do with them, we are breaking new ground every day. Those leaps are both technological and conceptual: we are arriving at very new understandings of how data can enhance stories.
Just take a look at some of the recent data-driven reporting, and you see that something decidedly new is afoot:
- “Gay rights in the US, state by state” by the Guardian completely blew me away when it came out. It took what could have been a straightforward list of gay rights laws and cut it into a graphic that allowed you to rearrange the blocks by state population, and even the locaiton of your Facebook friends. The data, and the presentation of it, was able to tell a very different story this way.
- “Where the Heat and the Thunder Hit Their Shots” by the New York Times is a beautiful visulization of what could be exceptionally boring data: analysis of basketball shooting data. But by engaging in simple animations that beg the user to continue to engage, they illustrate their point beautifully.
- “The Message Machine” by ProPublica doesn’t go for jaw-dropping visualizations, but instead blazes new ground in data collection. Curious about the new attempts at micro-targeting political messages, the team at ProPublica built a system to collect e-mails from thousands of volunteers.
These are three recent examples—there are dozens more, produced by news organizations large and small over just the last few weeks.
At MIT, we get to build off these successes and move the convergence of data and story into newer places still. We’ve been collecting project ideas in the hack day wiki for the last week or so. If even a fraction of these get off the ground come Sunday, we’re going to be looking at data and story in wholly new ways.
I can’t wait.
(By the way, this weekend is the first of four hack days we’re sponsoring around the world. For a full listing, check out our Hack Days page.)