Bringing Data to the Masses Through Visualisation
Bringing Data to the Masses Through Visualisation


Data visualisation is invaluable in helping data scientists and researchers identify patterns and trends. But it also has a crucial role in communicating meaning to non-expert audiences.

Among the wider public, mistrust of data and experts is worryingly widespread, and in some areas growing. Around emotive issues such as vaccinations and climate change, robust data science can lose the argument against well-meaning public ignorance, or active campaigns of misinformation.

More generally, mistrust or misunderstanding of data science can hinder the ability of any organisation to sell the benefits of the discipline to a wider audience – to secure funding, sell products, drive engagement in open data projects, or sway public opinion to change behaviour.

This talk, delivered by communication consultant and data visualisation specialist Alan Rutter, will explore the ways in which visualisation can add a layer of human storytelling to the presentation of data. It will focus on how we can use data to win people over, rather than simply winning the argument.

The talk will also look at how we can use communication elements beyond graphs and charts – photography and illustration, metaphors and comparisons, audience participation and interactivity, and storytelling.

We'll discuss the tension between the scientific urge to remain neutral and the desire for advocacy on important issues – and how we can maintain transparency while highlighting key messages.

The talk is for anybody who works with data that needs to be communicated to a lay audience – whatever the subject you are researching, or the languages you are using to analyse the data itself. You’ll leave the session with an understanding of how and why visual storytelling matters for data scientists, as well as a set of practical approaches to apply to your own work.


Alan Rutter is the founder of consultancy Fire Plus Algebra, and is a specialist in communicating complex subjects through data visualisation, writing and design. He has worked as a journalist, product owner and trainer for brands and organisations including Guardian Masterclasses, WIRED, Time Out,the Home Office, the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council and Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine.

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