Section: New Results

Storytelling and Engagement

Participants : Jeremy Boy, Jean-Daniel Fekete, Françoise Detienne.

We conducted three web-based field experiments, in which we evaluated the impact of using initial narrative visualization techniques and storytelling on user-engagement with exploratory information visualizations. We conducted these experiments on a popular news and opinion outle, and on a popular visualization gallery website. While data journalism exposes visualizations to a large public, we do not know how effectively this public makes sense of interactive graphics, and in particular if people explore them to gain additional insight to that provided by the journalists. In contrast to our hypotheses, our results indicated that augmenting exploratory visualizations with introductory ‘stories’ does not seem to increase user-engagement in exploration.

Many online data graphics use narrative design elements to explain a given dataset in a straightforward and compelling way. According to New York Times graphic editors Mike Bostock and Shan Carter, these explanatory graphics are preferable for data-journalism, as they have the advantage of exposing up-front what the main insights from the data are, without making people '`have to work for them.” However, most only provide limited interactivity, which reduces the potential for personal extraction of insight. In essence and by definition, Information visualization (Infovis) is interactive and exploratory. Thus, finding ways to make exploratory graphics more accessible and engaging to people is important, because if open/public/civic data is to truly empower people, then these people should be able to use appropriate tools to gain their own insights and knowledge—not only that provided by journalists in articles written or designed from a specific perspective. We explored the potential of narrative visualization techniques and storytelling to trigger this desired user-engagement. By engagement, we specifically mean a user's investment in the exploration of a visualization.