You may or may not know my featured image is from “Data is beautiful”., a sub-reddit on reddit. So before I write this post, we’d better clarify one thing… I won’t deny that reddit.com/r/dataisbeautiful was my inspiration. If you know it, then how could it not be? But just to be sure, I’d like to credit reddit (and the reddit community) for teaching me about the beauty of data.
As I’ve already begun to talk about it, I’ll start with data for this 23 things post. As you can probably tell from the paragraph above, I’d already shown an interest in visualising data way before 23 things. Sometimes even the most “boring” data-sets can be made to look wonderful and inviting with the right presentation.
For visualisation, I didn’t like the idea of not being able to export data from Googles public data explorer so therefore I decided to explore Gapminder, a non-profit Swedish organisation with an aim of breaking down misconceptions about global development, providing innovative teaching materials and visualisations of global data. As well as providing wonderful representations of global data, they also allow you to use their programs to represent your own data. I think that’s really cool so I’ll definitely try and integrate it into my work someday.
On the topic of making and sharing media, I’m afraid I don’t have much enthusiasum and honestly, I’m not too fussed. I’m quite a shy person and would never in a million years create a video where I’m front and centre. Likewise, I couldn’t think of anything worse than having to listen to me rant on through a podcast, so I won’t be doing one of those either.
But, since living with my girlfriend, I’ve grown quite a fondness for photography. It’s quite a common thing – to see a millennial taking photos, I mean I can already name a handful of people from my childhood who have tried and failed at making photography their career. I’m not one of those. I’m not looking to scrap my EngD to jump into a new suit, I honestly just like taking pictures of birds, trees and wildlife in the British countryside. I’d probably like taking pictures of birds and trees and the such like in far-away tropical countries too, I just haven’t had the chance to go.
Photo: filmography by Jo (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
I’d like to be able to utilise my photography in my research. Many children growing up only get told about “engineers” and “scientists”, they don’t get told that engineering is not just for boys and its not just about fixing pipes and tightening valves.
I’m a research engineer, but I’m also a thin-films expert and scientist. My role spans a variety of disciplines such as solid-state physics, plasma physics, nanophotonics, chemistry and electrical engineering. And even though from afar the warehouse looks boring, when you do catch those unique photos, with the right angle and perfect light, it really makes you see what I do from another perspective.
I’d really like to continue taking photos, making them available for people to see and maybe get involved with some STEM outreach work where I can use them to teach others about what I do.
I also really love the idea of infographics. I think they’re a great way to visualise data, or alternatively (& better in my opinion) to visualise a certain concept and act like a fact sheet. They really get to the bottom of the message you’re trying to convey in a unique way. I’ve used Canva before to make some simple infographics and although you have to pay for a lot of customised content, what’s included is definitely enough to help you along. I’d like to use it even more in the future and combine it with my photography to make cool STEM materials.
When it comes to sharing my media, I originally decided to sign-up to Slideshare, but as their servers were being extremely slow and weren’t allowing me to sign-up, I decided to go to Speaker Deck instead. When navigating the website, I’m finding it a little light. Although there are lots of presentations to choose from, a lot of them are quite basic and a lot of them are written in another language. This doesn’t really bode well and is making me wish I did sign-up to Slideshare.
I like the format of Note & Point. No accounts, no subscriptions, just a search button. So I tried to search for a few topics relevant to my work but they retrieved nothing useful. Not even the keyword “electric” produced anything even closely related to electricity. So, Note & Point was a little disappointing. This presentation thing isn’t going very well…
On the other hand, the variety of templates available in Prezi are very attractive, but come at a bit of a cost. £7 per month is the cheapest membership they do, which is still a bit steep for a fancy version of powerpoint. Maybe if I do more STEM work I’ll consider paying for a membership.
So, rounding this up, I think it’s best to summarise my findings. If you’d like some inspiration for media and data, then look no further than:
- http://www.reddit.com/r/dataisbeautiful – a subreddit dedicated to visualising data, provided by a community from all over the world.
- Gapminder – a “good-egg” company who make engaging data visualisation tools that you can play with to view global data from a new perspective. Also allows you to use their tools with your own data.
- Canva – a company offering the tools to make engaging infographics. Includes both free and paid content.
- Speaker deck – Not very “UK” friendly. A lot of presentations are in other languages and there isn’t a lot to choose from.
- Note & Point – No account required but limited resources for the science and technology industries.
- Prezi – Looks very good from the outside, but requires subscription.