So this is a belated post – but hey! I was drinking – Connected China is up and running.
First, a shout out: It’s the culmination of many, many months of hard and excellent work by Irene Jay Liu and her team of dedicated reporters, researchers and project managers, working closely with the legendary Ben Fry and the talented folks at Fathom Information Design. A huge thanks and kudos to all of them for just outstanding work. And fair warning: This will be a shameless plug.
It’s a little hard to sum up simply; at one level, it’s a microsite that focuses on looking at power in China, explaining how it flows, the key players and institutions, and their relationships, featuring stories and rich multimedia (including fantastic archival footage.) But it’s much more than that: It’s also a series of innovative data visualizations that pull from a rich, underlying database of people, institutions and relationships to illustrate the connections, careers and positions of key officials in China. And more than that: It’s a great example of how the combination of data. visualizations, stories and multimedia can be much more than the sum of their parts. And it shows how designing visualizations – and a site – around regular updates of data, not unlike HomicideWatch or Politifact, can yield real value to users.
That’s a central tenet of structured journalism, which is another reason I’m really pleased to have conceived the project at Reuters – and had someone as dedicated as Irene to push the idea further and make it come to life. We pushed the button on it late Thursday – and the reaction on the twitterverse, at least, has been great, as well as among fellow attendees at the NICAR conference in Louisville. (Which explains the drinking.)
It’s an amazing database: Tens of thousands of entities, 30,000 relationships, and a million and a half words (not to mention the array of news stories, photos and videos also featured in the app.) The team structured tons of information – connections, the importance of job roles, etc – with an editorial sensibility. In other words, they applied news judgment – but rather than use it just in stories, they used it to structure data. Or, as Irene notes on the blog:
By quantifying and categorizing these complex relationships, we break from the constraints of long-form text and allow new ways of communicating and interpreting this acquired knowledge.
And there are a lot of different ways Connected China communicates all that information. We hope you’ll like it, and find it useful. And that you’ll tell others about it.