Visualizing Information

Plan for Week

  1. Today:
    1. Visualization with Mapping
    2. Review Blog Post 7 – Blog Post 7 – Google My Maps
    3. Brainstorming for Google My Maps
  2. Friday: Work on Google My Maps
  3. Monday: Quiz 3 on Social Media, Data Journalism, and Information Visualization

First, Why Visualize Information?

We tend to start with information and then try to visualize the information.

For example, you may be given a story to tell that deals with data, numbers, statistics, etc. Many storytellers would start by looking at the data and searching for a way to visualize the data.

But, even more important than that, media content creators should be starting with:

What does the user want to know?

What problem does the user want solved or illustrated?

How can a visualization illustrate an issue for the user that will help them?

Visuals must be worthwhile, add value to the story, and be worth the user’s time to view.

Visuals must work well. Others, users get annoyed and leave (and may never come back). And, visuals must work in mobile devices, too.

Just “telling a good story” is insufficient to merit a user’s investment of time and cash.

And, more and more, users–not advertising–are the primary source of revenue for media outlets.


In sum, growing your audience is key for media survival. The user should be primary when considering visuals.

A pretty visual without utility is insufficient.

The graph below is from “What 100m calls to 311 reveal about New York” by Wired on Nov. 1, 2010.

Let’s all take a minute to look at this visualization.

  1. What does this visualization tell you?
  2. What problem or concern may this solve for a user?
  3. What are some concerns about this visualization?
  4. Is it intuitive to understand?
  5. Is there anything missing from this visualization?

When You Create Visuals, Ask Yourself

  1. What is the user-problem your visual will solve?
  2. What would the user be willing to pay for, in time or money, to view your visual?

You will need to brainstorm and think through these questions for our next assignment.

Visualization Assignment: Download Instructions for Blog Post 7 – Google My Maps

In our next assignment, we will:

Learn Google My Maps:

  • Use your Google account to sign into Google My Maps
  • Create a new map
  • Search for the locations
  • Drop pins
  • Edit pins for title of location, rank of location, brief description of location, icons, color, and photo of location
  • Changing the base map
  • Make the map public (click on three vertical dots)
  • Embed the map into a blog post (click on three vertical dots)

Before you start your map, you must brainstorm and research an issue that you would like to write about that somehow includes a map that you created using Google My Maps.

Focus on what problem that your map solves for the user. Or, focus on what important information that your map provides the user.

The blog post tone can be journalistic (objective) or conversational (opinionated) in nature.

See examples below for what you can cover.

  • “Real World Example”: The Best Brunches In Denver Right Now: This post is within the length that your post needs to be. It also covers a topic that you can also cover. The voice and tone is conversational and personal, which is allowed for this blog post. Of course, your blog post needs to have a Google My Maps that you created.
  • Mary Rucinksi takes a journalistic approach to report on Everything You Need to Know to Vote in Laramie: Mary does the background research to help out voters in Laramie discover their voting district and location.
  • Ivy Engel takes a colloquial and person approach to report on the Best Places to East on Long Beach Island: Ivy uses her personal experience to guide her top list of best places to eat during the summer on Long Beach Island.

Steps for Blog Post 7

    1. Consult with me about your proposed blog post and map.
    2. Review how to create our own maps using Google My Maps
    3. Create your map
    4. Write the blog post
    5. Embed the map in the blog post

Download the full assignment instructions and grading rubric: Blog Post 7 – Google My Maps

Here is an example of a basic map that I created. I didn’t write-up a blog post with this, but you will be expected to.

About The Author

I'm an associate professor and director of graduate studies in the Communication and Journalism Department at the University of Wyoming. In my ninth year at UW, I regularly teach multimedia production, web design, political communication, quantitative research methods, and media, science, and society.