The problem with data is that the way it is used today, it lacks empathy and emotion. Data is used like a blunt instrument, a scythe trying to cut and tailor a cashmere sweater. Some folks do a better job of making data interesting — like the fine folks at Foursquare. They use cutesy phrases to remind me of my coffee addiction and occasionally point out that Jared Kim and I are besties when it comes to eating ramen noodles or visiting Hakkasan, but they don’t really tell the whole story and they need to do more.
[Foursquare] knows that I check-in with a handful of people, whose relationship to me can be inferred from the social graph. Add to the mix the fact that I have left tips and taken photos at that spot. Now, compare it to all other coffee shops I have checked into and how they rank against this one location. Add all of them up, and you end up with a rudimentary conclusion: I don’t go to this coffee shop simply because it’s an interchangeable part of my daily routine, or because it’s on my way to work. I visit it because it is my happy place, my one cup (or dozen) of zen. And a company like Foursquare could use that fact to package even more compelling experiences for me.
The symbiotic relationship between data and storytelling is going to be one of the more prevalent themes for the next the few years, starting perhaps inside some apps and in the news media. I was reminded of the future filled with data narratives when I saw this visualization – Out of Sight, Out of Mind, by Pitch Interactive. It takes data about drone attacks and makes them visual and easy to understand, and in doing so, elicits a strong reaction.
But it merely scratches the surface — presenting a slight improvement on an infographic that might have appeared in the pages of a magazine. In a future where we have tablets and phones, packed with sensors, the data-driven narratives could take on an entirely different and emotional hue.
How are you using data?