Say something solid

Madhuri Dass Woudenberg is Head of Communications at the Global Development Network, a public international organisation that supports high quality, policy-oriented, social science research in developing and transition countries, to promote better lives.

She is also a strategy, advocacy and communications specialist, with over 15 years of experience across Asia and Africa. 

Besides data visualisation, she is interested in web and new media, writing, designing, films, event management, communications training and emergency response communications. She is also an expert trainer in many of these topics.

Madhuri is on Twitter at @MadhuriDass. The author’s views are personal. 


Photo by Lauren Manning | flickr.com

Photo by Lauren Manning | flickr.com

I help social science researchers think about how to plan or commission data visualisations for their results.

Many think that designing a great visualisation will somehow elevate their findings. This is not always true.

The consulting field on data visualisation, unfortunately, is filled with advice on which colors or charting methods to use, or how to adapt them for use on mobile phones. Which is all very well, but it obfuscates.

People forget that a ‘visualisation’ of any kind is just an aid. It needs to say something solid. Read more of this post

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I only have eyes for Excel

JonathanLaskovskyJonathan Laskovsky is the Senior Coordinator, Research Partnerships in the College of Design and Social Context at RMIT University.

He is primarily responsible for managing research partnerships support and administration within the College.

Alongside this role, Jonathan has research interests in modern and postmodern literature with a particular focus on fictional space and critical theory.

He tweets as @JLaskovsky and can be found on Linkedin.


Data is increasingly part of our lives. This isn’t surprising when you consider that networking giant Cisco has predicted that the data centre traffic alone in 2018 will hit 8.6 Zetabytes. That’s 8.6 trillion gigabytes, or enough to cover 119 trillion hours of streaming music. Enough for 22 months for every single person on the planet in 2018!

We are increasingly exposed to data in research as well. Think about digital humanities, for example. This means that we increasingly need better ways to display, interpret, and analyse it.

Image from Jonathan Laskovsky

Image from Jonathan Laskovsky

What we are really talking about here is Data Visualisation (DataViz).

In a world of big data, the importance of good DataViz cannot be underestimated.

This applies along the entire spectrum of research, from grant applications to reports to journal articles.

Or at least it should.

In my job, I often see project descriptions of concise, tightly written prose. Succinct, well-structured arguments that outline in crisp sentences what the research is about, and clearly identify roles and responsibilities in measured, orderly terms.

Then there is often a table.

Usually, this table is outlining either data discussed within the proposal, or showing the project timeline with milestones, and staff markers and outputs, etc.

This table is almost always hideous.

Let me be clear: often, this is not always entirely the fault of the author. Microsoft Word deserves a special place in hell for its table tool. A special burning place with sharp pointy things. It deserves this because, for a product that has been around for over 30 years across three platforms, it still doesn’t include a decent table tool. That’s right, everyone – there was an Atari version of Microsoft Word (for those of use who can remember when Atari made computers…).

Really, though, Word is not what you want to fall in love with.

When it comes to data, you should only have eyes for Excel, which is Word’s smarter, slightly nerdy sibling.

Read more of this post