Infographics and Distorted Data

After reading about credible sources and what factors to look for when checking reliability, I’ve begun to better understand how easy it is to pass off incorrect data as reliable. This is especially true when looking at visual representations of data. I can’t explain why, but many people tend to believe visual data displays when shown them. I wonder if it’s because we don’t think that visual data needs source citations or other marks of credibility in the way that articles and websites do. It’s easy to show someone data in a graph or chart and pass it off as credible.

I chose to create two identical infographics using easelly; one with real data and one with statistics that seemed realistic enough to be true, but were entirely invented. It was eye-opening to see how easy it was to create an infographic! I can now see where all of these come from and have a better grasp of how little credibility or authority it takes to create a graphic.

Below is my infographic of invented data related to the 2016 Presidential Election.

distorted-data

I chose to create this infographic with an appeal to emotion. I chose inflammatory statements and topics to pair with believable statistics to create a gripping, yet not factual, representation of data.

Now, here is an identical infographic with real statistics pulled from multiple credible sources.

real-statistics

For this infographic, I made sure to include all sources for my statistics. I found myself wondering as I was creating these, why we don’t look for sources more often in infographics. I thought it was really important to include this information. I also found that many of the statistics I had included in the first graphic are not statistics you can actually find information for! For example, my first graphic included a false statistic about the number of unregistered weapons in the United States. If you were to put any thought into analyzing the graphic, you would realize that we have no true way of knowing how many unregistered weapons are in the US! Instead, the real statistics focus on homicides with firearms. This is related to the issue of weapon registration, but can be supported by actual facts.

There are many voters and citizens out there that are intelligent enough to analyze data and understand when they’re seeing falsified information. However, often when someone is scrolling through their Facebook newsfeed and viewing inflammatory statements or graphics about topical issues, they’re not in the most analytic mindset. These are the types of graphics we see every day that many of us may not even give a second thought.

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