Data doesn't care about your political opinion
What a week *of COP26*. I’m sad, angry and tired.
Something else happened this week: some of my work was reposted by a pretty big dude *Chris Do, yes I’m 100% fan-girling*. It was great. I got plenty of compliments.
As we say in French, ça va les chevilles? Because in French, it’s not your head that don’t fit through the door, it’s your ankles.
But there’s a catch to this success.
The more of my work is being published and shared with a larger audience, the more (angry) messages I receive accusing me of having an “agenda.”
Truth is, I do.
On my agenda is:
- Seeing the urgent actions needed to properly address climate change, solve the problem and save millions of lives in the process.
- Living in the world where each individual is treated equally — regardless of gender, sexual orientation, religion or color of skin— is fed and have a roof over their heads.
Strangely enough, I don’t get why this is seen as an agenda *and if it is, I wish everyone had it*.
In our community, there is still a strong movement demanding data to be neutral. Devoid of feelings. A collective argument that adding emotions to a data visualization would be disingenuous. As if we, humans, didn’t already have feelings related to the data we are presented.
So we’re supposed to stay impartial. Stay indifferent when data shows that our planet is still on its disastrous path to be warming up by 2.4°C instead of 1.5°C. Stay detached when we learn that 14% of the world precious corals has been lost.
Keep calm and make neutral data visualizations.
Sometimes though, data is simple. Sometimes, it tells a story with an undeniable tragic conclusion of human failure. There’s no both-siding these data points.
I’m not arguing for an unethical manipulation of data, or to shape it to fit our narratives.
But we have to admit that impartial data presentations, on human issues, can fail. One clear example is the 1% paradox: “only 1% of people die from COVID, so why should I care”. Because neutral presentation fail to present the crushing lost that 1% represent. Because humans take emotional decisions. Then rationalize them.
Keep calm and show me your emotional data (Should I make a tee-shirt? Stickers?).
With love from misty California,
From my archive, this 2016 interview of Cinta Vidal: “I like thinking that it is possible for us to meet in the same place with a same state of mind. It happens sometimes, and when it happens, we stop being alone.”