The power of a good visualisation

Nuclear power. Two words, that when combined, are guaranteed to polarise. Especially now. I’m ambivalent on the issue. It seems like a good idea, until things go wrong. But the other day Seth Godin posted this little visualisation of some real data that is effective in its ability to frame the debate.

He puts the dissonance between opinion and reality down to the influence of coal marketers. Which opens up an interesting can of worms in the energy debate. I’m nonplussed about the debate, I’m more interested in the simplicity of turning data into a visual and the persuasive power that has.

Here’s what Godin says is the underlying reason this visual has the impact it has:

“I think that any time reality doesn’t match your expectations, it means that marketing was involved. Perhaps it was advertising, or perhaps deliberate story telling by an industry. Or perhaps it was just the stories we tell one another in our daily lives. It’s sort of amazing, even to me, how much marketing colors the way we see the world–our reaction (either way) to this chart is proof of it.”

There’s truth in that, but there’s also truth in the idea that the simplicity of a graphic like this one is a much more powerful manner of persuasion than the complication of talking about figures and research. That has always been the case, but the way the Internet works (this visualisation has gone, and will continue to go, all over the internet) means that a simple picture like this cuts through in a way that numbers don’t.

The author

Nathan runs St Eutychus. He loves Jesus. His wife. His daughter. His son. His other daughter. His dog. Coffee. And the Internet. He is the campus pastor at Creek Road South Bank, a graduate of Queensland Theological College (M. Div) and the Queensland University of Technology (B. Journ). He spent a significant portion of his pre-ministry-as-a-full-time-job life working in Public Relations, and now loves promoting Jesus in Brisbane and online. He can't believe how great it is that people pay him to talk and think about Jesus.

One thought on “The power of a good visualisation”

  1. Is Godin here suggesting that we should be paying for things in terms of number of deaths? Maybe all products should have a ‘number of deaths per unit’ attached to them. “Hey, check out my new mobile phone. It was really cheap, it only killed 2 people.”

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