Amid the flipbook churn of links from Twitter, Facebook and email yesterday, I saw two that brought different sides of me into sharp contrast.
One was a picture based on the tumblr The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows. The Dictionary is the brainchild of graphic designer and editor John Koenig. Koenig imagines new words for feelings that should have their own word but don't, like the momentary terror when your eyes haven't adjusted to the dark yet, or the wish that someone else's phone buzzing had been yours (those two are mine). Buzzfeed's Daniel Dalton did a really nice job illustrating some of Koenig's words a few weeks ago, which may explain why the list is showing up in my feeds a lot.
When we present data and information, the medium is often the message. “Download our full dataset (19MB),” sends a different message than “New figures suggest the oil spill would cover Lake Erie.” The tension between data depth and clear narratives is not a simple one, though. Sometimes the most important story data tells is in the relationships between data sets.
In the oil, gas and mining sector, a complex web of relationships governs the flow of money from private companies to governments to the local communities that benefit from government spending and services. Groups like Publish What You Pay and NRGI are in Ottawa discussing better tools to promote accountability in the extractive industries by extracting data on these fiscal flows, which can also include foreign aid and local taxes, among other things.
The World Bank has been working with colleagues from these fields to draft a tool that can illustrate the web of relationships in the extractive sector, and serve as a visual backdrop for posting data in context.