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  • Writer's pictureMark Talbot

Making the complicated, clear

Updated: Jan 26, 2021

Infographics showing correlation between positive human progress and negative newsmedia reporting
Human Progress vs. News Reporting

I've been involved in creating data visualizations and infographics for many years now as a subset of my exhibit design business. Recently, I have decided to bring this area into greater focus, as my clientele are asking for this imagery more and more, and because, well, I just find it damned fascinating and satisfying. On top of that, sense-making in this modern era is becoming ever more difficult, and parsing the news, technical papers and "big-data" sets is just not feasible for most people.

Here is one very informal personal project I put together recently. This is NOT a rigorously researched nor vetted presentation. It represents a personal opinion based loosely on a kernel of factual data: the ’birth certificate’ of first known weekly new publication was of the newspaper, Relation, and was unearthed in the town archives of Strasbourg, now in France but at the time a part of the so-called ’Deutsches Reich’. As to the trendlines, I base these loosely on much of what I have read in Steven Pinker's books The Better Angels of Our Nature, and Enlightenment Now, as well as research by Hans Rosling's and his group at I also base this on my (currently) 53 years of experience reading, consuming, and sometimes participating directly in the production of news media. These trend lines demonstrate what I see emerging.

The takeaway is found in the old adage "If It Bleeds, It Leads". Several million years-worth of evolution has hard-wired humans to pay far more attention to threats in our environment than to positive stimulus. That's going to be difficult to overcome. News media gets that, social media gets that, and they've turned up the "threat" volume to a fever pitch in order to monetize their platforms. It is clearly not serving our interests, nor our mental health. It appears as though it is eroding our social fabric, especially here in the US. I'd like to contribute some small effort to turn that tide of negative opinion back towards a more fact-based analysis. Things are generally getting better for us humans - not just a little, but a lot.

I intend to expound upon this graphic in the coming weeks to produce a more solidly data-driven set of imagery to support this. To take a very complex set of data and trends, and make them a bit easier to apprehend and contextualize. In the meantime, practice diligence and discernment in what news you consume. Your exhausted adrenals will thank you.

If you are interested in more eye-candy, click on over to the Xplore.Deisgn Infographics Portfolio and have a look around. Thanks, as always, for your time and discerning attention.

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