Words as a creative visualization? Part 1

I enjoy watching for creative ways to explain things.

I’ve discussed rap videos to explain economics, the federal budget illustrated on a one-page chart, and using one map to show the destruction of Napoleon’s army during his invasion of Russia. That one map does a better job of telling the story that a 1,000 word article and far faster than a 100 page book.

I have tried my hand at creative visualizations by producing two animated cartoons.  They tell the story of setting up good internal controls in a local church. Part one has received over 900 views on YouTube. Part two is here.

Here’s a big brain stretch for you – using a computer program to turn raw data into a story – creative visualization using words

My friend John Bredehoft called my attention to a company called Narrative Science.  He discussed that in two different posts, here and here.

What does Narrative Science’s software do? From their website:

We Transform Data Into Stories and Insights

Our proprietary artificial intelligence platform produces reports, articles, summaries and more that are automatically created from structured data sources. With amazing speed and quality, narratives are created in multiple formats, including long-form articles, headlines, Tweets and industry reports. Multiple versions of the same story can be created to customize the content for each audience and narratives can be fully tailored to fit a customer’s voice, style and tone.

I think that’s pretty cool. Taking raw data in a large database and automating the process of turning it into a story to explain what is happening.

A Smithsonian article discusses the concept – Is the Future of Journalism Computerized?

Their summary of the concept:

Software is being developed that can use raw data—such as Twitter feeds, company earnings reports and baseball box scores—to automatically produce news articles that seem as though they were written by a real live human. For better or worse, welcome to the brave new world of computerized journalism.

The article discusses the fear that this will replace human journalists. I doubt that will happen.

I think the value of this type of software will be very high. This can be used to take raw data and convert it to a creative visualization. Writing a summary of earnings expectations for a public company is valuable but merely the beginning point of journalism.

In the articles I will quote in my next post, Narrative Science wrote about Best Buy and Paychex.  The important work doesn’t start until you have that information on the table. Then begins the hard work of figuring out whether it’s time to buy, sell, or hold. 

Then the human journalists can have a field day figuring out what will happen to the Best Buy business model. No computer algorithm can write a story about where that’s going.

Next post – some samples of auto-journalism and where it might be helpful.

2 Responses to Words as a creative visualization? Part 1

  1. […] post introduced the idea that software could take raw data and convert it to a usable news article.  My […]

  2. […] previously discussed here and here a company called Narrative Science. They provide a service that will convert raw data into […]

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