Data Storytelling for Social Sciences Workshop took place in Bournemouth at 12th November as a part of ESRC Festival of learning events with the participation of 25 professionals both from NGOs and academia. The workshop started with the presentations of Dr. Anna Feigenbaum, Dr. Einar Thorsen, and Brad Gyori which were structured to give practical knowledge on data storytelling before participants were given hands on tasks.
Presentations kicked off with a brief welcome speech from Dr. Anna Feigenbaum who is the Project Coordinator and Senior Lecturer in Digital Storytelling, followed by her presentation on “What is data storytelling?” which gave a broad introduction to the concepts and improvements in the field. Among these was a discussion of how visualised data can enhance our perception of certain events and help us reach a more diverse audience with an increased impact.
As the second presenter of the day, Dr. Einar Thorsen, Principal Lecturer in Journalism and Communication, gave an introduction to data collection, extraction and scraping methods. Participants were given technical knowledge on how online tools help to collect data from various sources and how this data can be organised to achieve more accurate results. At the end of his presentation, participants were given 3 exercises on Import.io to get participants to start using these data software.
Before starting the last part of the presentations, Dr. Anna Feigenbaum has given some examples on good and bad data, as a follow up on Dr. Einar Thorsen’s presentation. For this exercise participants were asked to download some migrant crisis data sets and the problems or inaccuracies in those data sets were discussed. Common problems in data sets include changes in data recording style in time and naming errors (misuse of capital characters, lack of standardization in coding) which can be ‘cleaned up’ within Excel or with tools like Open Refine.
Last presenter of the day was Brad Gyori, Senior Lecturer in Digital Storytelling, whose first speech was on character creation. In his presentation, Brad talked about definitions and creation of antagonist, protagonist characters and story log lines.
After giving a few examples of story log lines from popular films including Rushmore, The Wizard of Oz and The Avengers, first task of the day was given to participants as they were asked to create a log line based on a protagonist they were given. In order to do this, participants were divided into 4 groups of 3-4 people and each group was given one character from the earlier migrant crisis example. Characters were; Frontex EU, Journalist, Border and Migrant Campaign.
Designed to bring character into how we tell stories with data, an example from the group given the ‘Migrant Campaign’ character was: “A group of humanitarian NGO’s who believe that migrants deserve a better life try to persuade governments to change their thinking and to offer better conditions at high risk borders.” After discussions and feedback on each groups’s log line and a short lunch break, Brad Gyori started the second part of his presentation on story patterns and synopsis creation.
After the examples on each story pattern, participants were given their second task of the day in which they had to pick a type of story pattern that would be suitable for their story idea and brainstorm on the data they needed to complete the story. Each group has pitched their synopsis and got feedback before the last the task for the day. One example from this task was, if we build up on the earlier example from Migrant Campaign group: “A multilinear tragedy. Three successful strangers from different European countries have one thing in common. Outside of their professions they volunteer for NGO’s in their spare time on small, local projects. An Arabic speaking professor in the UK, a Lawyer practicing in Germany and a Paramedic in France. When the migrant crisis hits, crossing paths briefly, they become swept up in their attempts to help which leads them to questioning prior beliefs and assumptions about their governments and their place in society. Returning home, they feel disappointed and helpless.”
Dr. Anna Feigenbaum then presented the last task to participants, which was structured to let them mash up everything they learned through the day and use the data to see what’s actually out there. For this task, key points from story pitches that we can find data on in a short time period had been chosen and each group was invited to try and uncover more data, and analyse the data they had, to build upon their story ideas and find new leads and story ideas.
To narrow down the data search, first, the group chose to focus on the Greek borders and each group was given some leads to research on and questions to answer based on their story pitches. At the end of the task the group discussed strategies and challenges in pulling together data from the web. After a brief thank you and feedback from participants, the workshop wrapped up, sending a new batch of data storytellers on their way.
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