Why care about visualization in such dire times?
Community resilience is “the capacity for communities, institutions, and individuals to respond and adapt to shocks and long-term stresses. These shocks and stressors can occur broadly to society, economic systems, and to the physical environment.” Key to collective adaptation and response is the ability to share and mutually understand information relevant to negotiating collective well-being and to responding to immediate crises.
The COVID-19 pandemic has been a crisis characterized by large amounts of data reported to the public on a regular basis. Data visualizations have ben used as a way to help make that data more approachable, but many visualizations have not succeeded in making the data more clear.
Our purpose in thinking through data visualization and resilience is to both understand what data visualizations have represented in the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, but also to clear the air; we want to dispel habits and tendencies in charting pandemic data that create false confidence, obscure harm, or facilitate whimsical interpretations.
Visualization for the purpose of community resilience, rather than for the purposes of “reporting,” requires a consideration of audience: their needs, their most pressing decisions; their likely questions and reservations; what they are used to seeing.