Data journalism and "Don Draper moments"

Alastair Dant on how tech, data and narrative come together at The Guardian.

Screenshot from The Guardian's World Cup Twitter replayIn a recent interview, Alastair Dant (@ajdant), lead interactive technologist for The Guardian News and Media, discussed some of the creative processes that go into The Guardian’s data visualizations. Highlights from the interview include:

  • For last year’s World Cup, The Guardian created a match replay that visualized each game based on its real-time Twitter data. Dant laughed when he described the Don Draper-like moment that started the project: “Seeing these pictures in my head of … initially it was words, a bit like Wordle, but animated in real time, so that the actual ‘roar of the crowd’ could pass through Twitter.” The project evolved from there, with the words morphing into the “balls” that you see in the published version. [Discussed at the beginning of the interview.]
  • How does The Guardian begin a new project? Dant said it’s like a “Venn diagram with three circles: you have technology, you have data, and you have narrative. We generally start with one of those three things.” In the case of the World Cup Twitter replay, the editorial people knew the narrative — the enthusiasm of the games. They also had a way to record the Tweets. “And it was then just a case of figuring out the tech to put all that together.” [Discussed at 3:11.]
  • In the future, interactive news will settle on some of the “archetypes or standard types of interactive content we make again and again,” Dant said. “In doing that, we’re starting to refine our software so that it becomes easier to publish in a far shorter timeframe.” In addition to having a better speed of response, Dant said there will be more access to big data as well as more interesting interfaces. [Discussed at 4:58.]

The full interview is available in the following video:

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