Data points are everywhere. Swipe a credit card, buy something online, or upload a pet video to Facebook, you leave a data point. Just about everything that a corporation or government does leaves a digital footprint as well. These days, a lot of people want to use that data to find an answer or make a point, but it’s not always easy.
“An incomprehensible amount of digitized data has been collected and stored globally,” says Maggie Mulvihill, a College of Communication associate professor of the practice in computational journalism. “Everybody is trying to harness the meaning of that data and grappling with how to present it effectively.”
That’s the focus of COM’s fourth annual Storytelling with Data Workshops, being held June 5 to 9 and 12 to 16. Registration is open now, offering student, nonprofit, and professional rates. (Keep up on Twitter @BUStorywithData.)
“It’s a very intensive training in skill sets really needed by every occupation,” says workshop founder and executive director Mulvihill, who is also a Rafik B. Hariri Institute for Computing and Computational Science & Engineering faculty fellow and cofounder of the New England Center for Investigative Reporting.
The workshops include lessons in data collection—how to scrape data from a website or extract it from social media, how to clean “dirty” data of errors and formatting problems, and how to find high-quality data in places you might not think to look. “You don’t have to be a coder,” Mulvihill says. “There are so many tools that journalists use that are point-and-click open-source tools. You can scrape a website in a couple of clicks, for free.”