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The role of data in storytelling

You can do more than visualize data. You can use it to tell part – or all – of your story. Think about the data that your users can provide you with, as well as the data you can share with them. Think about whether, when, and how best to interrupt the flow of the rest of the story with data, adding another layer of meaning.


As part of this project, the NFB Digital Studio gathered user data that speaks to how we “collectively” feel about certain traits of digital culture by asking them to ‘absolve’ or ‘condemn’ certain digital behaviours. By analyzing the user data from that project, the NFB hopes to deepen the story. For example, by looking at the data geographically, or around time of day, certain truths about the content are revealed. For instance, perhaps it looks as though proportionally more people ‘absolve’ watching porn after midnight. And the data in this story can point out things about us as a group – things that we may not have been aware of. For instance roughly 50% of users “condemn” using email to avoid direct confrontation. But of those 50% who condemn this action, 17% actually admit they do it anyway. So we see in the data a deeper story about the gap between our morals and our online actions. This makes an important comment about the dissociative nature of life online.

User generated content (insomniac’s drawings, writing, or videos recorded in the wee hours of the morning) form the basis for the story. Users provide ‘data’ for further storytelling.

Other (non-NFB) projects that embrace data as story :

Further reading on the art of telling a story with data:

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