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Data Storytelling FAQ Part 1 Of 10: Series 2


Data Storytelling – FAQs – By Shaku Atre- Series 2 Part 1 of 10


Q1: What are the main differences between humans and other species?


A1: We humans cook, clothe ourselves, and tell stories. For generations, we have been telling stories with words. Why should it be different when we tell stories using data? Story telling is a cornerstone of being human.


Q2: Why is Storytelling important with Big Data?


A2: Big data is a colossal amount of very varied data arriving at a dizzying speed. It is ferocious in its volume and its velocity. There are stories begging to be told to anybody willing to listen.


Q3: Is Data Storytelling an Art or Science?


A3: It is both. First the storyteller has to get all facts with Statistics. Statistics without any holes. Inevitably it is a part of Science. At the same time the storyteller has to look at the data from human perspective- any pain caused, any suffering to the innocents, any injustice, any loss generated, any return on investment of money, any joy created, any labor issues, any victory of good. Then think how to present the data to bring across the message. Could there be a better way to reverse the path if the results are undesirable? And present the data so that behind the data are the emotions supporting the data that is being presented. People should be made to think about the cause and effect in human terms. And this is art.


Q4: What are the wonderful components of a good story?


A4: A good story takes us on a journey of ups and downs, grabs our emotions, and loses us in its narrative. Think of stories you have heard from your grandparents, parents, teachers, and friends. They can captivate you and enable you to travel to different worlds. They can be told again and again. A good storyteller is always in big demand.


Q5: What should be a structure of a good Story?


A5: Aristotle proposed that a story should be based on a three-act structure:

  • A beginning, called a setup, is the First Act.
  • An unsettling event creating a conflict is the Second Act.
  • A resolution of the conflict and recreation of balance is the Third Act. If a call for action is implemented it is in the Third Act. The resolution of the Third Act may be a positive one, or, alternately, the result may be complete destruction.


Q6: How to start a story?


A6: A Beginning or a Setup – the First Act


In the beginning of our data story, we introduce the main character, the protagonist, and the current situation, with the strengths and weaknesses of the main character.

Let us consider the story of Sunita, a cleaning lady in India. Is Sunita rich or poor? It depends on where she fits in the data description of the country’s population of 1.252 Billion.

Sunita, our cleaning lady in India, is poor, but she is making 8,000 rupees a month. Sunita has a family and a home. She is content with her lot.

Shaku Atre
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