Project description

I develop data-driven interactives for a Dutch newspaper. The projects in the additional URLs give an impression of the diverse subjects I work on, from personal to global and from fun sports to the threat of radicalization. It also illustrates the many different forms my research can take.

Can we actually feed the world?
This scrollvisual is part of a larger project around the question whether we can feed 10 billion people in 2050. I present the main facts of population growth, land use, etc. The option to fill in your birthyear gives a personal grasp on the population growth that fuels the issue.

Can forced birth control solve the worldwide food challenge?
I made this data-driven story in response to readers’ suggestions that forced birth control can solve population growth. I give them an interactive calculator (“zo groeit de wereldbevolking verder”) to let them explore what changes in birth rates would actually be needed. Using a variety of data, I also explain why it is better to invest in socio-economic improvement.

Collectively sick. Or not?
This interactive simulation, based on a scientific model of disease outbreaks, lets the reader explore what the effect of vaccination is. It demonstrates that the decision to (not) vaccinate is not only about individual protection, but also about maintaining ‘herd immunity’ for others. Readers can also look up their own county on maps of the 2018 vaccination rate.

What is your county’s coalition now?
Many media report the results of the Dutch county elections and then walk away. But the winning parties do not always wind up in power. Therefore, we followed the coalition formation for months and present the results in a concise, searchable dashboard of all 335 counties.

The YouTube stars of the reactionary right
This is a guided tour past the most important radical right YouTube channels, supporting several written articles. The research involved 600.000 videos and 120 million comments and shows how YouTube can easily lead viewers down a path of increasingly extremist content.

Twitter speed skating (@volkskrant and @dutchdatadesign)
Within minutes of the end of a race I posted a visual summary of Olympic speed skating on Twitter, based on manually collected lap times. Unlike the usual result tables, these visuals let one compare the course of the races as if the riders were pitted directly against each other.

Flight path animation
I scraped all departing flights from the Schiphol airport website and visualized the flight paths for the busiest day of the year. Counters for the estimated number of passengers, fuel and carbondioxide (based on aircraft type data) give readers a feeling what the impact is of all this vacation travel.

Do you get enough exercise?
I turned a scientific article on the intensity of daily activities into a web app that lets readers gauge quickly whether they meet the recommended amount of exercise. It also shows that it is not too hard to meet the revised activity guideline, e.g. by cycling to work or gardening.

What makes this project innovative?

I always try to go a step further, beyond the obvious, in my research and in the presentation. I want readers to explore and experience certain issues for themselves, instead of simply throwing loads of facts and data at them. Thus, instead of graphing the various, readily available, scenarios of the UN World Population Prospects, I implemented the underlying cohort-component computation method, so that the reader can use an interactive calculator and directly experience the impact of different birth rates for themselves. And instead of shaming anti-vaxxers, I let people explore the effect of vaccination in a scientific simulation. Or I bring a topic close to the reader’s personal experience, by visualizing the sheer number of flights in a single day or giving them an easy to use web app to track their own daily activity. I continuously experiment with different formats, that best serve our readers and that best bring a certain point across, and with different platforms, e.g. as a stand-alone website, video or visual made for social media distribution – in the near future even a podcast. To reach a broad audience, I design all my projects for use on all devices, from smartphone to desktop. For my research, I use many open data sources and web scraping, but I also don’t shy away from manually constructing my own data sets by talking to experts, studying scientific literature and following a topic for a certain period of time. For the visualization of the radical right ‘YouTube stars’ I collaborated with another data journalist to obtain the raw data and for some other projects I received design input. Otherwise these are largely solo projects, where I researched the data, wrote the story, designed the concept, and built the interactive presentation all by myself.

What was the impact of your project? How did you measure it?

Unfortunately, I can't provide any quantitative metrics, but I frequently get very encouraging feedback. With my birth control story I really reached some of the commenters that before seemed ill-informed and somewhat racist. This played out in renewed discussions on social media, with some of these people adjusting their point of view. We also had an exchange with Wybren van Haga in our national government, who suggested a similar ‘solution’ for Africa not too long ago. Because of this story and the one on the challenge to feed 10 billion people in 2050 I was an invited speaker to a discussion evening with hundreds of interested people, experts, ngo’s and politicians. The importance of our online radicalization research has sadly been underscored by the viral video of ‘involuntary celibate’ Elliot Rodger, who killed six people in 2014, and the recent Christchurch attacker in New Zealand, whose ideology bears strong similarity to the extremist content we encountered on YouTube. Hopefully this research helps people understand how social media can fuel radicalization processes. At least some of the extremist commenters that we tracked down and talked to view their process of ‘personal development’ through YouTube videos a bit differently now. For many of the other projects I just know that a lot of readers respond very enthusiastically, even with speed skating ‘haters’ loving the animated Twitter summaries - it suddenly makes a tedious 10km race a very entertaining thing to watch. And for the vaccination simulation I have been told that some family doctors are using it to educate their patients, thus reaching the intended audience via this specialist channel as well.

Source and methodology

For many of my projects I use open source data from organizations such as the UN, FAO, Worldbank and the national statistical office CBS, as well as data from governmental websites and scientific publications or APIs from all sorts of services. I visualize and analyze these data to find patterns, remarkable outliers and compelling visual examples and I deepen my understanding by reading relevant reports and scientific literature, sometimes reconstructing the underlying computational models myself. I then create a storyboard and design concept of the digital format that I think best matches the subject matter. I collect feedback on these initial wireframes and then build the final data-driven interactive, which receives further finetuning after some user testing (time permitting, because I frequently work with tight newspaper deadlines).

Technologies Used

Besides a lot of pencil and paper sketching, I use the following technologies: R, Excel, Python, Tableau, Localfocus, Gephi, Carto, Mapbox, deck.gl, Observable, D3.js, Scrollama, HTML/CSS/JS, Adobe Creative Cloud

Project members

Collaborators are indicated on the individual project pages in the URLs

Link

Additional links

Followers

Click Follow to keep up with the evolution of this project:
you will receive a notification anytime the project leader updates the project page.