The Art of Transforming Data into Great Stories

What happened last week in the world of data visualization? This category provides you with remarkable visualizations – they can be remarkably beautiful, remarkably interactive or just remarkably interesting. Visualizations differ on so many levels, and so does their content. Let’s take a look at what week #14 brought us.


Real Estate Price Map for the +19.000 Neighborhoods of Belgium

Belgium stands for dark chocolate, tasty fries and a recently very successful national football team. You might add another (potential) outstanding feature: dataviz as it has been published by the Belgium newspaper De Tijd (and of course by others as well). They developed a map that displays the real estate prices for more than 19.000 neighborhoods of the Kingdom of Belgium. Unsurprisingly, the metropolitan capital Brussels is quite expensive; at least partly. But are there still neighborhoods in Brussels where real estate is still offered for favorable prices?

Maarten Lambrechts is the person responsible for the map that shows the creative diversity of real estate market in Belgium. In short, the map does exactly what it claims to do. The visualisazion is well organized, shows useful information and the included legend provides guidance. And, as a sidenote, it is amazing to see how you can use with the mapping tool cartoDB apart from the default settings. But as usual there is some criticism from our side, and as usual it tackles the disclosure of the sources. Lambrechts mentions them in a blog post, where he also gives insights of his procedure, but unfortunately the blog entry is not directly linked with the actual map. Hence, you will miss some information when just checking the map. @DeTijd: Add the link and Belgium’s reputation for dataviz will even grow more rapidly than the fear of playing against the team during the European Championship this summer.

De Tijd Real Estate Price Map for Belgium

The New Deadly Paths to Europe

The refugee crisis is still an important topic in media. It is often covered in photo reportage and documentaries. But when it comes to daily news it often lacks in reliability and validity. No entities really seem to know how many refugees there are; in short, it lacks on data. That did not stop the data team of the German newspaper Zeit Online to tell a data-based story – published also in English – about displaced people at the gate of Europe.

First things first, the general data basis about refugees is incomplete, thus, the Zeit Online data team needed to lower its sights. However, by indicating clearly when the data they used was not complete they build trust. Enriched by tiny animations that do the right thing at the right moment, the authors tell a coherent story based on data about old and new refugee routes to Europe. Even though the visualizations may not be fancy, they are sophisticated, build trust and are very well put into context thanks to the written content. Also the handling with the data sources is transparent, though, the sources could be indicated more precisely.

Data journalism bears the great chance to also reach a higher objectiveness in online media as long as data and methodologies are transparent, what they are in this case. However, as the mortal headline already implies, the whole story seems not to be free of criticism (check the quotes at the end of the story that tend to get overlooked). Maybe it is just me, but I could literally feel the discontent of the authors with the ‘behavior’ of Europe. Ultimately, it is up to the reader, to you, to decide whether the journalist crossed a line or are fulfilling their task of reporting independently. So, what do you think?

ZeitOnline The New Deadly Paths to Europe

Amazon Doesn’t Consider the Race of Its Customers. Should It?

The electronic commerce company Amazon extends its same-day delivery option. This development might already be a newsworthy story. Probably none expected that someone would make the effort to check the areas where this new service is possible and match it with population density data. That is exactly what Bloomberg did. And that is what caused a public outcry.

Unlikely for data driven stories, the experienced Bloomberg’s authors start their extensive story with written content. The longer you glance over the story, the more visualization will pop-up and condense the data-based accusations that the authors raise towards the internationally operating company Amazon. Let’s have a closer look: the story starts by introducing the Amazon service and providing some insights about the company and its way of doing business. Then the investigative results get introduced. Every time the reader could question the claims raised by the Bloomberg authors, they will be presented with a visualization that undermines the story’s statement. For instance, when they state that Washington D.C. predominantly black southeast neighborhoods are excluded from the same-day delivery service, you can actually double check on the map whether this claim is true or not. The visuals themselves are not easy to understand. But no worry, the authors do not leave you hanging. In contrary, next to the maps they summarize the main finding in written form and, on top, provide an exploratory snippet of the map.

It is a shot in the dark when I state that scraping the data was not done in a minute. Bloomberg demonstrated impressively how a well research can impact society and even lead to a change of thinking in the company strategy. (check here, here and here).
Bloomberg Amazon Doesn’t Consider the Race of Its Customers. Should It

About the author : Eva Lopez (DW)