Wanted: an interactive explanimation

The one thing that has always fascinated me most about online media – first as a journalist, now as a researcher – is the evolution of new, digital genres. Interactive infographics are one example, explanimations an other. The last term is a contraction from animation and explanation and is used for… well, animations that explain something. The concept has been around for a while (think about the Did You Know video’s) but it was not before I saw a presentation by In60Second, a Dutch company that specializes in explanimations, that I came to think about it as a genre. For me the archetype explanimaton is The Crisis of Credit Visualized by Jonathan Jarvis, but there are much more examples. I kind of collect them, so be sure to post your own favorites in the comments.

The thing I like about explanimations is their persuasive power. They often use voice over, music and sound effects to grab your attention. Their strong pace keeps you involved. At the same time, that’s also their disadvantage: they are classic, linear stories that don’t let you dig deeper to understand better. That, of course, is one of the main characteristics of interactive explanations like this older example about Dutch biofuel plant Ecoson or this recent one about the pros and cons of a school reform in Germany.

The holy adage of the infographic community reads “Show, don’t tell”, I know. But sometimes I wonder if it is possible to have the best of both worlds: the engaging power of explanimations, and the in-depth features offered by interactivity. So if you know a nice example, please let me know!

BONUS: an explanimation that doesn’t explain anything at all except the creativity of the designers:

From the skin to the bone

It’s like the equivalent of Google Earth for the human physique: The Body Browser. Google Labs now offers the possibility to explore a female body in 3 dimensions. A very nice illustration of the power of interactivity: you can peel back all layers from the skin to the bone. It’s also a powerful showcase for WebGL, a technology that allows 3D rendering in the browser without the need for plugins. To try the Body Browser you need one of the latest builds of Chrome, Firefox or Safari. Or you can just watch this video for a first impression.

The New York Times adores sliders

A month ago I wrote about the visual coverage of the US midterm elections by the New York Times. In this fascinating presentation, graphics editor Amanda Cox – AKA the Queen of InfoVis – explains some of the reasoning behind these and other Times interactives. She may be not an overwhelming speaker as Hans Rosling but here story is at least as interesting. There’s a lot of absorbing stuff in the 55 minute video, but my favorite quote starts around 11’17” when she is talking about this interactive map:

We sort of adore sliders. I think sliders are the best user interface element ever in terms of a journalist. Because there’s this kind of cheap way of having a story in it. There’s a beginning and a middle and an end to the slider, so there’s this narrative structure.

Catching up with the story

Having been very busy with teaching and trying to finish the first chapter of my dissertation, I’ve neglected this blog for a while. So it’s time for some catching up. And although you’ve probably seen it on all the other blogs about visualization, the trailer of The Joy of Stats should not be missing here. In this BBC documentary Hans Rosling once again will demonstrate his enormous enthusiasm about the revealing powers of visualized statistics. According to some critics the slick, minority report-like visuals are a poor and unnecessary substitute for Roslings original TED-talks, the snippet shows again that the real power of interactivity and visualization is revealed in combination with a strong narration.

Telling stories with data, the movie

After the nice video portrait of the graphic department of the New York Times in July and the very inspiring TED-talk by David McCandless in August, September brings us the ultimate video about telling stories with data. Geoff McGhee, who worked at The New York Times, ABCNews.com, and Le Monde Interactif, spent a year at Stanford University studying data visualization. The result: a must-see interactive documentary about Journalism in the Age of Data.

Online nieuws is doorgeefnieuws

Where were you when JFK was shot? Wereldwijd moet de vraag ontelbaar keer zijn gesteld. En beantwoord, want iedereen die oud genoeg is weet – net als Lou Reed – nog precies waar hij was op 22 november 1963. De verankering van de moord op Kennedy in het individuele geheugen is het archetype geworden van wat psychologen een flashbulb memory noemen, een zeer gedetailleerde herinnering aan een schokkende gebeurtenis. Een recenter voorbeeld is de collectieve flitslichtherinnering aan 11 september 2001. Continue reading Online nieuws is doorgeefnieuws

volkskrant.nl, een kleine geschiedenis

Sinds gisteren ben ik officieel uit dienst bij de Volkskrant. Ruim negen jaar werkte ik voor de krant, eerst bij de Internetredactie, later als chef van de videoredactie. Bij het opruimen van mijn computer vond ik een paar plaatjes, animaties en filmpjes die samen een aardig overzicht bieden van de ontwikkeling van volkskrant.nl. Enigszins willekeurig, geenszins volledig, maar toch: een kleine geschiedenis.

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Videojournalistiek: Journaal ontmoet Epic

Een uitdagende kop trekt de aandacht, of het nu gaat om een bijdrage aan een weblog of om een forumdiscussie op een congres. Bomvol was het dan ook in het kleine zaaltje van het Brusselse Marriott waar begin maart gedebatteerd zou worden over de stelling Newspaper video will die in 2008. Andy Dickinson, de universitair docent digitale journalistiek die deze boude voorspelling op zijn weblog had gedaan, zou de degens kruisen met Michael Rosenblum, zelf verklaard goeroe van de videojournalistiek en altijd goed voor wat vocabulair vuurwerk.

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