English
4780

Technical Writing

Spring
2017

 

Visuals readings Week 3

 

Displaying Data in Digestible Ways

Comments

"Culling through massive amounts of data is a headache. A dense table of aggregated data points can be useful in theory, but the manner in which it’s displayed is often a hindrance. Even more than that, showing that data in a chart or graph is confusing if it’s not effectively labeled. Data is useless when you can’t make good decisions from it."

Your job as the writer is to do the culling and integrate it into a form the reader needs.. It is not your job to assemble the data and then dump it on the reader so she can figure it out.

Readings

 

Voice

Displaying Data in Digestible Ways

Numbers, statistics, and risk

Comments

Numbers are essential for gaining a full understanding of the situation. This chapter covers how people react to numbers. Since many people have a high literacy level but a low numeracy (number literacy), design teams must understand how people interact with and interpret numbers as it is essential to understanding how it affects the communication process.

Readings

HII-book-chp-9

Voice

 

 

Confirmation bias

Comments

People tend to only seek information which confirms their beliefs or desired decision. Once a decision is reached, there is a tendency to seek evidence to support that decision and ignore disconfirming information. When asked to determine a rule for a sequence of items, people only look at or try sequences which conform to the expected rule. They do not try sequences which would refute the expected rule. Once a decision is made to buy product A, people look for reasons to support buying product A and do not look for reasons not to buy it, or for reasons product B might be better.

 

Readings

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6xMaR8au-YU

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OTItO4oUi_w

 

Voice

 

 

Expectancy bias

Comments

People see what they expect to see in a set of data. There expectations (and what they see) might be very different from what is actually there.

When people look at information, expectancy bias causes them to see what they expect to see. Klein found that people tended to interpret a passage in one distinct way and that these interpretations were consistent with their backgrounds. When people read a report in which either good or bad results are expected, they will privilege the information which supports those good or bad expectations. In other words, they will see the report as supporting their expectations of good or bad results. Think of politicians reading a report and cherry-picking data to support why their party is right and the other party is wrong....yet both are making that claim with the same report/data.

People’s prior knowledge about a subject affects how they evaluate information credibility. If their prior knowledge leads them to expect to find specific information, expectancy bias will often result in their finding that information. At the same time, they ignore other information which brings the reliability or validity of their preferred information or decision into question. Salient information which is outside of the information people expect to see must have a higher salience in order to capture their attention. If the writer believes the readers are looking for good news, then bad news needs to have a higher level of salience.

Expectancy bias is a major issue when you present data rather than information. The person will take that data and interpret in a manner that fits what they want. Your job as a writer must be to present interpreted information that fits what they need.

Readings

 

Voice

 

 

Charlatans and confirmation bias

Comments

The Wizard of Oz provides an example of confirmation bias (and is how charlatans of various ilks make living). Notice how the professor is reading Dorothy's body language and feeding back what she wants to hear.

That is how a fortune teller works. They give vague answers and respond depending on how their mark responds. The person doesn't realize they are being read and/or probed for information. Afterwards, they only remember the (mostly) correct statements and ignore the incorrect ones because they want to believe the fortune teller. They are searching for information which confirms their belief.

Think of how a seance never has the "dead spirit" saying they really hate you and wish you would stop bothering them. (Although maybe in a dark comedy where the person is talking to his ex-wife's mother....)

 

Readings

Dorothy meets Professor Marvel
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PJaxd1BQr9g

Voice

 

 

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