Big Data Analytics


We are swimming in data — “Big” and small, global and personal. And we are also facing complicated data change and inequality whose stories can only be told with data. The need for understanding of data-driven issues is higher than ever before. But raw data doesn’t make a good story… and that’s where you come in.

This class is focused on how to tell stories with data to create social change. We will learn through case studies, examples and hands-on work with tools and technologies. We will introduce basic methods for research, cleaning and analyzing datasets, but the focus is on creative methods and media for data presentation and storytelling. We will consider the emotional, aesthetic and practical effects of different presentation methods as well as how to develop metrics for assessing impact.

Over the course of the semester, students will work in small groups to create 5 sketches, each using a different technique for telling a data-driven story. Think about a “sketch” as a half-realized project; where you have implemented just enough of the most important details of the idea in order for us to understand your vision. A sketch is NOT a fully realized presentation of a data story. For the final project, students will have the chance to expand upon one of these sketches to create a fully realized presentation of a data-driven story.


  • Students will learn techniques for finding a story in data, building a basic set of tool-assisted data analysis skills.
  • Students will build things that tell data-driven stories with a rich set of digital and non-digital tools, online and offline.
  • Students will practice arts- and rhetoric-based approaches to telling data-driven stories.
  • Students will learn to connect data stories to meaningful, situated social action.
  • Students will learn basic techniques for measuring the impact of data-driven storytelling.
  • Students will learn basic ethnographic and anthropological approaches to identifying and researching audiences.


  • Why Data Storytelling – Data is ubiquitous. Many organizations have spent a fortune on developing talent capable of competent data analysis but not many have equipped their workforce with the ability to communicate the insight they generate effectively to decision-makers. Unlock insights trapped with your analysts through lessons in Data Storytelling.
  • Explore or explain – There are two reasons we perform Data Visualization. Data exploration is the first step for many data analysts and is a skill that has been religiously cultivated in response to the rise of Big Data. Explanatory Visuals are used to convey the outcome of an analysis to the audience and is thus the focus for this course.
  • Who, What, How – The first step to crafting a Data Story is to consider three key questions. Who is your audience? What do you want to tell them? How can you bring this story to life with your data.
  • Insights & The Big Idea – Putting together the ‘Who, What, How’ enables us to form the ‘Big Idea’. This ‘Big Idea’ serves as a guide to ensure we have a consistent narrative in our visuals.
  • Storyboarding – Stories help us make sense of information in a clear and structured way. This section will illustrate the different ways we can organize a story such as through the Three Act Structure, or from a Toe-to-Head approach.
  • Graphical Integrity – Misleading visuals are everywhere. We see them in newspapers, annual reports, news channels to name a few. Protect yourself from misinformation (or from spreading it) by learning about Graphical Integrity.
  • Activity: Part 1 – Put your newfound skills together to create and organize a story from scratch.
  • Graphical Perception – The human eye has evolved to distinguish certain graphical cues better than others. Hack into the human brain and design visuals that are accessible to your audience.