Michelle Ferrier dissects election 2012 data visualizations
The associate professor of communications discussed the November presidential election returns and showed how the use of data, technology and journalism collided in data visualization and storytelling that changed how the electorate engaged with politics.
Using online, broadcast, print, social media and interactive media practices, Ferrier explored how mapping technologies and analytical tools changed the text of political storytelling and how the data geeks triumphed over political pundits to change political discourse. Data visualization drove storytelling during the 2012 presidential election and in particular during election night results, said Michelle Ferrier, associate professor of communications. She was a guest speaker in the Texts & Technology Guest Speaker Series at the University of Central Florida in Orlando on March 28 on how the numerati and journalists transformed voter engagement on newspaper websites and through digital technologies.
Her evening talk addressed the changing nature of political discourse through data visualization that leverages new technologies and interactive media practices. Through examples from CNN to the New York Times and voter mobile apps, Ferrier showed how data helped to explain the complex stories of the paths to the White House through the Electoral College, how campaign finances were spent, and the mood of the country during election returns.
“The numerati are those that are adept at taking large data sets and learning more about us than we know about ourselves,” said Ferrier. “From the 2008 election to now, journalism has adopted some of these practices and used interactive storytelling to poll opinion and sentiment on the fly and educate voters more deeply on the issues.”
Ferrier moved beyond the rhetoric about “red and blue states” to examine how maps, charts and interactive flow charts told the story of American politics and voters. Dubbed the “Nate Silver Talk,” Ferrier discussed the pundit’s predictions on the blog FiveThirtyEight and how media responded to the challenges to traditional data interpretation.
From the New York Times’ “Paths to the White House” interactive flow chart with its endless options for predicting pathways to electoral votes to The Washington Post’s campaign finance graphics, to Instagram, voters could engage in the election through a myriad of digital tools.
“I’m just fascinated about the ways in which digital technologies and data mashups help us extend the tool sets we have as journalists to educate and inform our readers,” Ferrier said.
Ferrier spoke separately during a question-and-answer session with doctoral students about successfully completing a Ph.D. in Texts & Technology. As an alumna of the UCF doctoral program, she discussed juggling a career as a newspaper columnist, her academic life and her family life to the attendees.