It’s All Journalism: #336 Data Viz Today follows audio path to visual subject

When was the last time you looked closely and attentively at a map and thought of it as an example of data visualization?

A love of maps and all the information they convey provided a new career for Alli Torban, a data visualization designer at the American Enterprise Institute and Data Viz Today

“I came at data visualization how most people come at data visualization, which is in a very roundabout way,” Torban said. She has a degree in math and moved to the Northern Virginia area to pursue a career working fora government contractor but put her career on the back burner when she had her first child.

She stopped working entirely after her second child was bor but when she decided she wanted to rejoin the work force, Torban didn’t want to go back to what she was doing before.

“I kept coming back to my love of maps,” she said. “I didn’t feel all that fulfilled doing software testing. … I discovered, well, I like maps, and that’s data visualization. There’s a lot of layering of data on maps. I started getting into data journalism.”

But without any formal journalism or data visualization training, Torban had to find a way to learn what she needed to learn while raising her children.

Here she took another unconventional turn: Torban began reaching out to the creators of data visualization pieces she saw and enjoyed and asked them questions about how they developed their pieces.

“I’d contact the author and ask a few questions, like what data they used, how they cleaned it, what their creative process looked like.They would tell me the information,” she said. “I compile that information into a story so I can tell my audience, bring them through the process.”

But why not take a visual concept and relay it on a visual media, like YouTube?

“I have heard that a lot,” Torban laughed. “I love listening to podcasts. I don’t have a lot of time sitting in front of the computer. I’m constantly cleaning up, getting snacks, making dinner. There are lots of things you’re doing when you’re busy following around little people who need a lot of attention. Listening to podcasts were my outlet, so I’m really sticking to podcasts for selfish reasons.”

Alli Torban, a data visualization designer and host of the Data Viz Today podcast, joins producer Michael O’Connell to explain how her love of maps changed her career and why podcasts made more sense than YouTube for exploring a very visual concept.