Bringing data visualization to the masses - offline!

16 October 2015

Author: eric

Bringing data visualization to the masses - offline!


Feradi Info Black & White Image

Data visualization plays a key role in the communications work that we do at JumpStart. We've been visualizing the news in Georgia since the end of 2012 and been using big data for much longer beginning with our Georgian street mapping project. One aspect of our work that we have always found lacking is our ability to take our online visualizations offline so we could reach new networks that our online stories simply weren't reaching.

In Georgia and in many countries, there is a large demographic of the population that does not consume information from online sources. We wanted to reach those people, but didn't want to sacrifice our visual perspective in doing so. And printing thousands of copies of color infographics and distributing them for free is too costly to maintain and not a sustainable approach to visual data-driven storytelling.

Walking down one of Tbilisi's main avenues one day, I took notice of a sidewalk newsstand. It dawned on me how we could bridge our digital divide: we could synthesize new-school data visualization with old-school newsprint. At JumpStart's next Monday-morning news editorial meeting I presented the idea to my colleagues who received it enthusiastically. The idea was to publish black and white data visualizations on traditional newspaper.

Using newsprint and data visualizations might seem simple, but for some reason we have not seen the two combined in this way. Our approach seems both novel and flexible for a wide variety of communication applications.

Ia Ninoshvili took the leading on creating a standard template for our newspaper. Ia is an amazing illustrator and designer. Mariam Gamkharashvili took the lead on researching printing houses. Mariam is one of our researchers and is responsible for the recently popular story How Dependent is Georgia on Russia Economically? In the end she found a small, independent printing house where the owner was also excited about our new concept. They offered to print our A3 size infographic-newspapers for us at a nominal cost. Not bad at all.

Our proof of concept was a summary of Georgia's economy in 2015, including the lari's devaluation - front and center. Ia, who has a background in the publishing industry, laid the stories out in the template she had designed and we printed an initial 500 copies. The proof of concept exceeded our expectations in every way! Feradi Info Black & White was born!

With some creativity and willingness to revisit old technologies, we have uncovered another communication medium we will use to channel our data visualizations offline. We are currently building up distribution networks to deliver our stories beyond Tbilisi. We are also considering ways to measure the impact of this medium, as we don't have an offline Google Analytics or Facebook Graph to help us.

Mostly, we are excited to introduce another impactful idea for storytelling and advocacy to Georgia and to the world.