How to See Big Data? Take A Look.

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February 9, 2015 by Kathryn Kuttis

Screen Shot 2015-01-17 at 7.38.16 PMBig data is everywhere.

We track and store information from all of our transactions: cellphones, credit cards, computerized vending machines, customer service, tollbooths and ATMs. Big data can tell us about spending habits, water consumption, emails, iguana reproduction, commuter traffic, rainfall, insurance claims and Oscar wins.

In a recent article published in Harvard Magazine, author Jonathan Shaw said that “the data flow so fast that the total accumulation of the past two years—a zettabyte—dwarfs the prior record of human civilization.”

What will we do with it all?

Last month, Google Flu Trends and the CDC teamed up to predict influenza outbreaks in the US by studying how often people googled search terms for the flu. Scientists are also studying data from 800,00 year old ice samples to answer questions about global warming. Will data be able to solve our biggest problems?

One designer is using our abundance of data to make things more clear. In his TED Talk: The Beauty of Data Visualization, David McCandless draws ideas and makes clear comparisons that unlock the complex mysteries created by big data. He argues that we first need to visualize data into simple diagrams before we can change the way we see the world. Visual storytelling is a valuable tool for understanding data. Demand will only increase for professionals who can gather, analyze and strategically visualize data into a story for key audiences.

This week students in J452 are learning to tell a visual story with an infographic. We started with data and research. Now they are working to visualize meaning. Using words and images to tell a story that is culturally relevant and uses associations to be clear. It is a complex process that requires continual editing and collaboration.

Why set aside time to design in a writing class? In many ways, visual storytelling is the same as our other strategic writing assignments. To tell a memorable and clear story the writer must use information that supports their main idea. Don’t have a main idea? Get one. You can find it in the headline and hopefully the lead sentence.

Here are the kernels for this week:

Kanye West Bashes Nike During Big Sean’s All-Star Concert (RollingStone) What does this mean? Is he accusing NIKE of something that wouldn’t necessarily align with their corporate value statement? Aren’t they a leading example of CSR? Is Kanye a thought leader?

Anchors Aweigh (NewYorkTimes) How did the intersection of news reporting and entertainment lead to the fall of Brian Williams? Why does a news anchor need to be trustworthy? Is technology to blame for the downfall?

Starbucks and Match.com are Hooking Up to Help Couples Connect Over Coffee (ABCNews) How are these brands helping each other? What makes them want to work together? What are the risks of a strategic partnership? Can you name other social media campaigns that ask people to do the same thing on the same day?

Chipotle Is Asking Fans to Write Haikus, and Some of Them Are Truly Impressive (Adweek) Audience engagement is a major goal for most social media strategies. How did Chipotle get customers excited about their product with this campaign? What does it say about their audience? Would this same campaign work at a McDonald’s?

Coca-Cola pulls Twitter campaign after it was tricked into quoting Mein Kamp (TheGuardian) The company ended its promotion after it unexpectedly turned controversial. How should they respond?

U.S. Airlines Should Quit Whining (Bloomberg) How can the airlines continue to reduce their services and argue for fewer competitors? What makes the system work this way and how could a communications campaign bring on necessary changes to make it better for customers?

Knicks’ owner James Dolan allegedly tells disgruntled fan ‘the Knicks don’t want you,’ root for the Nets (Daily News) This is a public relations disaster for the Knicks. Given that the situation involves the owner, how would you suggest they turn it around?

Alice Waters: Planting Edible Seeds in Fertile Minds (Examiner) Why is Alice Waters an important figure for the local food movement in the US? What does she believe in and how is she getting the word out to others?

Hot Grammy-Teased Red Band Trailer: ‘Straight Outta Compton’ (Deadline) Why did they decide to release this during the Grammy’s? Can you talk about the audiences they intended to reach. What’s the main message they want to deliver?

Los Angeles gives hosts, neighbors mixed signals on short-term rentals (LATimes) How is the sharing economy impacting neighborhoods in LA? As technology quickly changes the way people visit major cities, how can residents and city officials respond?

Grammys: President Obama Delivers Domestic Violence PSA During Ceremony (Variety) Obama’s PSA for ItsOnUs.org follows a similar anti-violence spot that aired during the Super Bowl. What makes these timely? Why is this an important message for these audiences? Can you cite any news from this year that makes these venues relevant?

 How Star Wars Made $27 Billion (FastCompany) How does a good idea make money? This article looks at the profits from the Star Wars franchise. Tell me what you think of the infographic. How is it good? What could make it better?

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Welcome

If you share an interest in public relations, media and visual design, this might be a good place for you to hang out. I started this blog to exchange ideas with my students at the University of Oregon. They keep me (and maybe you too) at the forefront of social media, visual communication and career development. Here you'll find our best ideas, links and learning as we write, create and blog our way through a course on Strategic PR Communication.

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