Overexposure to media and information creates a demand for order and sense.
Data from sources of authority, whether it be population figures in a newspaper article, or a politician citing spending figures have a limited context and unless one, has a phD in statistics, economics, international relations and carries around a calculator it is no easy task to extract meaning from the numbers.
Info-graphics/graphic journalism/data-maps are a means of finding threads of logic and in an otherwise meaningless super-abundance of data. Figures are obsolete without context.
A saturation of media and information is one reason why IGs are so effective, another is their potential to turn established facts on their head.
As communicators graphic designers know how information can be tweaked and distorted to serve a purpose, agenda or maybe just a brief. Data presented by editors, corporations, politicians, teachers and even friends can be manipulated into certain directions.
An article that cites a figure or emphasises a particular point creates the impression that certain facts are concrete but rather they are elastic and completely dependant on representation.
It’s rare to find a detailed spreadsheet or anything beyond a rudimentary graph in print media, data is analysed and key figures are selected for presentation. Analyses of figures become facts. Sometimes figures cited in articles and speech can be reductionist to the point of misrepresentation.
Gs can allow readers to make the analysis themselves and draw their own conclusions from the raw data rather than passively absorbing editorial content.
The key difference between mainstream media and IGs is the ability to compress large amounts of data into a singular macro-representation. A well-designed IG has a clarity and breadth of focus that can cut through distortion by selective near-sightedness facilitated by the limits of traditional media communication.
It doesn’t look like there is much of an Visual Journalism presence in Australia. In the UK the Guardian has an excellent dedicated data-blog and the Telegraph has data journalist that supplies graphics and analysis on international and local issues with a range of quality.