Data Visualization Literacy

Supporting data visualization literacy is key to drive the development of data visualization as a tool to enhance the understanding of critical information by the public. As explained in this Financial Times article: “only 63 per cent of American adults can correctly interpret a scatter plot”. I guess the figure would be similar across other western countries, and even lower in the developing world. Expanding the available vocabulary to data journalists would allow for improved visualizations making sense of complex issues.

The Financial Times Visual Vocabulary

The article mentions the Graphic Continuum as a learning tool, which the Financial Times used as a basis to develop their own Visual Vocabulary. But these attempts fall short of the real objective, which should be educating the general public. The 37% of American adults who can’t understand what a scatterplot is showing won’t turn to these tools for help. Educational efforts should be part of the mission of data journalists to ensure their work is widely understood. This mission can only be achieved on a daily basis, developing our visualizations with the end user in mind. Not to dumb them down, but to provide tools to ensure they can be understood and navigated by anyone.

Data visualization literacy tool from the Financial Times