Monday, November 15, 2021

Data Storytelling: A Crucial Gateway to DH Scholarship

By Kenton Rambsy

Data storytelling is a skillset everyone in Digital Humanities (DH) should consider. Similar to data journalism, the process of data storytelling revolves around analyzing and filtering large bodies of organized information for the purposes of creating a narrative with visualizations that provide insight on a particular subject.

Data storytelling brings together numerical findings, visuals, and narrative to facilitate a researcher’s presentation of large sums of information in palatable ways. By merging these three components, researchers make metrics useful by contextualizing data points. Readers can gleam insight since a goal of data storytelling is to reduce unnecessary fodder and focus on essential findings.

Data storytelling also enables practitioners to acquire general data analytic skillsets that can be applied to other research projects. Engaging in the process of data storytelling, people are given a chance to refine their technical skillsets such as scraping data, cleaning data, and using visualization software to transform it into visualizations. In my experiences, researchers can learn more about data collection, coding, and computational analysis while harvesting data.

With several emerging subfields in DH, it’s more important than ever that we identify general skillsets that are useful to researchers across multiple fields such as English, History, Political Science, and even sociology. Different fields are driven by various research methodologies. Therefore, finding a common ground can help spur activity in DH by focusing on key concepts and skills that can unite researchers from disparate fields.

Data storytelling proves to be most valuable when it helps audiences gain new insight and fresh perspectives on a particular subject or even when it inspires readers to take action. Data alone is just a collection of numbers and rarely useful without added
context. Visual narratives use data to create meaning. Design elements ranging from font shape and color to charts and hyperlinks of other websites all play a role in how researchers engage with their audience and relay information.

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