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Data journalism, Data visualisation, health

Taking the numb out of numbers

Connie Hanzhang Jin‘s illustrated feature on psychic numbing

For a kid who actually hated maths at school, I love data. I love how it can help us understand the world and the way it works. I love the way that it can spark change too — and always has, from the work of Ida B. Wells, who used data to fight lynching, through to how the Covid Tracking Project fought government intransigence to provide real data at the beginning of the crisis or how Australia’s ABC has used data recently to highlight how police failed sexual assault survivors.

But data can be overwhelming, especially in a year when so many have suffered so much, “numbers” can be something that just leaves us numb.

In fact, it’s called ‘psychic numbing’ and it’s what happens when we’re confronted by huge tragedies every day in ways that seem unimaginable. It’s been explained beautifully by NPR visual reporter Connie Hanzhang Jin recently: it is often the human stories that hit home, not the big picture. Between the near and the far views, we choose the near everytime. 

You can read Connie’s piece here.

About Simon Rogers

Data journalist, writer, speaker. Author of 'Facts are Sacred', from Faber & Faber and a range of infographics for children books from Candlewick. Edited and launched the Guardian Datablog. Now works for Google in California as Data Editor and is Director of the Sigma awards for data journalism.


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About me

Data journalist, writer, speaker. Author of 'Facts are Sacred', published by Faber & Faber and a new range of infographics for children books from Candlewick. Data editor at Google, California. Formerly at Twitter, San Francisco. Created the Guardian Datablog. All opinions on this site are mine, not my employers'. Read more >>

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