Narrating Visualisations

I have chosen the Environment as my topic to base my visualisation assignment on. The broad question I am asking is, Is there a direct correlation between Climate Change and Precipitation? I will be researching and visualising if greenhouse gas emissions have any effect on the level of rainfall in Cork between 2010 and 2012.

I gathered all my statistics from Statbank, from the Environment and Climate section. At first, I tried downloading the CSV file provided, but when I loaded that file into my chosen visualisation platform, RAW, the titles were all over the place, as if the data was not entered correctly by the creator. I decided to enter the data manually into Excel and extract it as a CSV file. RAW is a simple and effortless platform to navigate, providing a drag and drop option to submit my CSV file. I particularly liked using RAW over other platforms such as Gephi, because you have the option to choose from many charts and graphs and the user interface is very appealing.

First, I used the data I gathered regarding the rainfall, every month from 2010 to 2012, and chose to visualise it using the Circle Packing chart.

Rainfall 2010-2012 Cork

Screen Shot 2016-04-05 at 12.46.43

This image is very appealing to the human eye, in contrast with the factual data that I had to rewrite myself in order to create this colourful visualisation. I organised it so that the amount of rainfall in millimeters was displayed alongside the year, and each colour represents the month of the year. The bigger the circle, the more rainfall. I have also added an image of each month corresponding with it’s designated colour. This was not available to download like the Circle Packing image, I had to screenshot it, so you as a reader could determine the month involved. However, if you were entering your own data in RAW, this is available to you on their page. As you can see from my Circle Packing visualisation, June 2012 seems to have had the most rainfall in the entire study, following with August 2012 and October 2012. So what we can derive from this already is that 2012 was a significant year with reference to an increase in rainfall.

I also chose to represent the same data using the Alluvial Diagram in RAW. It proved, for me, to be a more readable graph. It has the months in order of most rainfall, and also the years. Again, we can see June at the top of the graph following a chunky blue wave. August stands out for us also in it’s colour matching, as we can follow the red wave directly to the year 2012.

Rainfall Img. 2

On the right hand side, the graph is in the order of showing the most rainfall, and descending in scale from there. Scanning your eyes from right to left you can link up the amount of rainfall with its specific year and then follow it back to its specified month.

What I can determine from viewing these two graphs, is that as the years went by, rainfall increased in Cork from 2010-2012. Being unsure of what external factors could cause this increase, I looked towards climate change, and the problem of greenhouse gas emissions affecting our climate.

Emissions

The main greenhouse gases are Carbon Dioxide (CO2), Methane(CH4) and Nitrous Oxide(N2O). In Ireland, N2O and Methane stem from the agricultural sector. CO2 are emitted through the burning of fossil fuels such as oil, coal, gas and peat. It is also emitted through deforestation and urbanisation. I also used data from Statbank to gather data about the Greenhouse Gas Emissions in the years 2010, 2011 and 2012.

I created a CSV file for this data and uploaded it to RAW. I chose the Cluster Dendrogram chart to show my visualisation of my gathered data in regard to the greenhouse gas emissions in Ireland from the year 2010-2012. It displayed that more emissions were emitted in 2010 than in 2012. I’m no weather specialist, so I can’t determine whether gases emitted in 2010 could create the horrendous weather that we had in 2012, but looking at these graphs, that’s the only conclusion that I can come to, other than the idea that maybe greenhouse gases are not the reason for such rainfall.


 

After reading the Environmental Protection Agency’s factsheet, I am convinced that climate change does have an impact on precipitation, and does correlate with my findings. It states that “impacts of climate change in Ireland include: an increased likelihood of river and coastal flooding” and “more extreme weather conditions including rainfall events”. It’s shocking findings tell us that “Agriculture is the single largest contributor to overall emissions at 32%”.

I also read an article published in 2012, which declares that “global greenhouse gas emissions increased the risk of flood by up to 90 percent”.

I am certain that these visualisations prove helpful in trying to compare and contrast particular data, however, I am still unsure whether both my data sets link up enough to support my hypothesis.


 

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Critical Review of Storify

In this review of Storify, a content curation platform, I will critically analyse how Storify works as a research tool and as a pedagogical tool. I will also give feedback on my initial thoughts on Storify, after using it to curate content for another assignment of mine.

 

Launched in September 2010, Storify was initially aimed at journalists, people who are used to hours and hours of researching to find the exact information from a credible source to create the perfect story. Storify cut down those hours, and made the process simple and easy for those aspiring to be the next Anderson Cooper. As time goes on, Storify seems to be increasingly applicable in the classroom as it “helps teach students how to contextualise the streams of social media information” (Fincham, Kelly, 2011). Co-founder of Storify, Burt Herman, describes it as “21st Century wire posts that are dynamic stories that can be embedded across the web”. This platform is the future of media, and students and teachers are being encouraged to get on board with this idea as soon as they can. Curation means to merge traditional reporting with information transmitted from social media. Students now have the opportunity to delve into this activity of curation just like journalists do. The only thing they need is a Twitter and Facebook account to connect with their Storify account to be able to search. Students can now become curators, “someone who takes an inordinate mass of material, and turns chaos into order, or in a more recent slang, turns “noise into signal” “ (Guerrini, Federico, 2013). They have the opportunity to become independent storytellers, and use the vast information that they have at their fingertips to create something unique.

 

Some of the functions that Storify provides, will aid the average student in bypassing the everyday problems that professional journalists might come across. When searching for content through the many social media site search bars that are provided, Storify also offers the option to apply additional filters. The search results can be filtered based on whether the results have links, images, retweets and geographic location. It’s a way for students to sift through and gather material without having to do the old-fashioned research that’s impractical for a non-journalist. Herman advises students to use the user/list section to search for reliable sources first. Bill Keller, editor of The New York Times, had this to say about it – “Storify provides a filter function to filter out the poor content and unreliable sources. Students can use Storify to verify which accounts make sense. There are voices on Twitter that matter and Storify is a way of reaching them”.

 

Every image and text that is added to the student’s story is automatically attributable to the owner, so there is no need to worry about copyright issues. While using Storify myself, I even had the option to tweet a person, whose tweet I had embedded into my own story, to let them know that their tweet was displayed on my page.

What I found very interesting about the process of embedding information from social media platforms onto Storify was that, even if the original tweet, post, gif was deleted by the owner, it will forever stay on Storify. This platform copies over the data and stores it on their server.

 

A very useful feature that could be used in the classroom, is the option to comment on each paragraph and embedded element, and also share those elements on other social media platforms. This would be a great way for students to report on their peers work, and give their opinions and feedback on it, which then would engage the students in a scholarly discussion about their chosen topic. Of course, being able to post the final publication of their story on social media is a major feature, so it can reach many others with the appropriate hashtag, to encourage further debates.

 

What I found to be poor usability engineering regarding the Storify application, was the aggravating way that the cursor would jump back to the start of the paragraph if I clicked onto a different webpage. I found that when I came back to my Storify essay, fully rejuvenated with ideas, continuing from my unfinished sentence, that I was actually writing everything at the beginning of my paragraph instead of taking up where I left off.

 

Overall, I established that Storify is a great application for aspiring journalists of the Digital Age, using content curation at its core to create dynamic stories, that appeals more to the public and encourages scholarly feedback. Teachers are already getting their students involved in this curation platform to complete assignments, and to learn how to avoid unsourced opinions and speculation. Storify is a very professional platform, and I have no doubts that it will flourish in today’s society.

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