Department of Communication and the Arts
Quantitative Communication in Digital Media: a Tableau Assignment
When considering online communication, internet researchers have pointed out various types: interpersonal, intrapersonal, group, non-verbal, etc. In a graduate course focused on online communication (COMM 7551, The Internet and Communication, Spring 2021), I expose the students to these various types of communication. However, I have added one important type of communication rarely discussed: quantitative communication. To address and practice quantitative communication, I created a simple assignment based on the Tableau software.
First, a brief explanation of what I mean by quantitative communication. Quantitative communication refers to communication which is based on the numerical or visual representation of numbers/data. In this type of communication, attention needs to be paid to clarity, meaning, and simplicity because most people are not numerical thinkers, but visual, semantic or verbal thinkers (see, for example, Fedorenko & Varley, 2016). When considering creating effective quantitative communication, one should deliberate on their choices of graph, color, descriptions, etc. (see the work of Stephen Few). As readers of quantitative communication, we need to be aware of what the data means and where it’s coming from.
To practice these skills, I created the following assignment: An introduction to Tableau. Students need to create an account in Tableau, and then explore the software using the free data sets. Specifically, they need to understand and define one indicator (with the help of a data dictionary), and then answer a pre-determine question using charts made in Tableau. The assignment is worth 15% of their final grade.
The outcomes of this assignment are:
- Students must interact with Tableau – open an account, play with data, etc.
- Students become familiar with data visualizations basics
- Students have to think about how to communicate data
- Students are better prepared to represent and interpret data
With these outcomes, I hope to establish in our students a sense for what is quantitative communication and how it relates to data and digital media, and prepare them to become better readers of data.
Fedorenko, E., & Varley, R. (2016). Language and thought are not the same thing: evidence from neuroimaging and neurological patients. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1369(1), 132.
Few, S. (2020). …Stephen Few. http://www.stephen-few.com/