Are Your Data Visualizations Racist?

Article by Alice Feng & Jonathan Schwabish: “Through rigorous, data-based analysis, researchers and analysts can add to our understanding of societal shortcomings and point toward evidence-based solutions. But carelessly collecting and communicating data can lead to analyses and visualizations that have an outsized capacity to mislead, misrepresent, and harm communities already experiencing inequity and discrimination.

To unlock the full potential of data, researchers and analysts must consider and apply equity at every step of the research process. Ensuring responsible data collection, representing the communities surveyed accurately, and incorporating community input whenever possible will lead to more equitable data analyses and visualizations. Although there is no one-size-fits-all approach to working with data, for researchers to truly do no harm, they must build their work on a foundation of empathy.

In our recent report, Do No Harm Guide: Applying Equity Awareness in Data Visualization, we focus on how data practitioners can approach their work through a lens of diversity, equity, and inclusion. To create this report, we conducted more than a dozen interviews with nearly 20 people who work with data to hear how they approach inclusivity. In those interviews, we heard time and time again that demonstrating empathy for the people and communities you are focusing on and communicating with should be the guiding light for those working with data. Journalist Kim Bui succinctly captured how researchers and analysts can apply empathy, saying: “If I were one of the data points on this visualization, would I feel offended?”…(More)”.