Data Storytelling: More Immersive and Easier on the Brain

September 25, 2012
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I recently read The Art of Immersion by self-described digital anthropologist Frank Rose – a book about how the Internet is changing storytelling.

I recently read The Art of Immersion by self-described digital anthropologist Frank Rose – a book about how the Internet is changing storytelling. (Watch the video interview with Rose below.) Rose interviewed people like movie director James Cameron (director, Avatar), musician Trent Reznor (Nine Inch Nails), and game designer Will Wright (The Sims) – all change agents who are redefining storytelling.

“All fine and dandy,” you might be thinking. “Storytelling is fun. But what does this have to do with Business Discovery?” In The Art of Immersion, Rose describes patterns he is seeing emerge across movies and television, games, and other forms of entertainment, all of which have implications for Business Discovery – in fact all of BI:

  • Storytelling is becoming more participatory, nonlinear, and immersive. The very concept of what a book is, for example, has changed. (See related blog post, “Storytelling with Data to Rally Support for Your Position”). According to Rose, “A new type of narrative is emerging—one that’s told through many media at once in a way that’s nonlinear, that’s participatory and often gamelike, and that’s designed above all to be immersive.” He also wrote, “The same tools that enable people to spontaneously coalesce online make it easy for them to start telling the story their way, if they care about it enough to do so.”
  • Storytelling helps reduce information overload. Rose made the point, “Stories are recognizable patterns, and in those patterns we find meaning. We use stories to make sense of our world and to share that understanding with others. They are the signal within the noise.”  If you can interact with data represented in colorful, visual ways and can share stories about the data, numbers can become the most interesting thing in the world. Data storytelling makes it easier for the human mind to sift through the dirt to find what’s relevant in the archeological dig.

The very concept of an audience–a passive group that absorbs whatever you give them–is outdated. Today the term “participants” is more accurate. This is true not just for  movies, video games, and books, but for BI as well. Interested in data storytelling? See these related Business Discovery Blog posts:

•          “Bombillo Amarillo and the Importance of Data Storytelling,” July 3, 2012

•          “Enchanting with Data,” May 30, 2012

•          “Data Brings Joy to People,” May 24, 2012

•          “Storytelling with Data to Rally Support for Your Position,” March 5, 2012

•          “Storytelling with Data Helps Us Internalize Meaning,” July 21, 2011

•          “Tell Me a Story,” May 25, 2011

•          “QlikView and the Power of Storytelling,” March 8, 2011.

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