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Jeanette Sha


In the information age, data is more frequently represented in condensed visualized forms. Information visualization is commonly employed in different contexts to illustrate textual and numerical data. In journalism, for example, many forms of news graphics are created to explain, simplify and analyze editorial stories and to educate readers. News media outlets have adopted the practice of information visualization as a means of storytelling – combining the power of images, words and multimedia sources. By increasingly featuring news graphics in static and animated forms, online publications are striving to adapt to new needs in the digital age in order to appeal to a growing online audience.

Many of these dominant forms of visualizations, though presented in visually rich and sophisticated manners, can be challenged on grounds ranging from their subjectivity to their underlying functions. The focus of my thesis is information visualization in online journalism, particularly emphasizing the flaws and criticism that viewers and scholars tend to ignore. Drawing on news graphic examples set by online publications varying in quality and credibility, the paper examines and compares various sources such as the New York Times, Time Magazine, NBC News, Slate, Buzzfeed, among many others.

The paper first examines how information visualization has developed historically, then analyzes how present-day news sources present content in deceiving and ostentatious ways, and lastly, it addresses prevailing problems of information visualization as well as its future direction in online journalism.

After exposing challenges in current data visualizations in areas of interactivity, subjectivity, authenticity, and commercialization, a new guideline is proposed to seek areas of improvement for future online news graphics.


SECTOR B: Art and Culture of Seeing 

ADVISERS: Michael Leja (ARTH)   |    David Comberg (FNAR)