Comparing ‘The Counted’: A Juxtaposition of Two Police Cultures

By Kendra Pierre-Louis, Michael Drachkovitch, Jyotishka Biswas, and Tiffany Wang

The data say that in 2015, 1145 people were killed by the police in the United States. We wanted to tell this story because the question of how many people the police kill and who they kill has become a contentious issue. Our goal was to get people to think about the issue of police killings in a less inflammatory manner. Rather than frame the debate around culpability in individual cases, we wanted to raise the question of the broader culture in which those deaths take place.

With this goal in mind, we choose to target an audience comprised of citizens who were predisposed to think that the police are good, but haven’t thought about the issue too deeply. We choose to use a comic based on data from the Guardian and contrast it with data that on police killings in Iceland – a country that ranks 15th for gun ownership but has had only one killing in their 72 year history.

Comics are useful in kind of storytelling, because they provide a clear simple narrative that is both less threatening. Many people might look at a graph and either not be able to interpret the data or feel like it exaggerates the scale of the problem. The mix of visuals and text helps to keep the reader engaged while asking a fairly evocative question: doesn’t a six year old in the United States deserve the same level of compassion as an armed gunman in in Iceland?

Our call to action – asking for the reader to write their police chief to encourage them to support an open dialogue with their community about promoting more compassionate policing – is a safe, non-accusatory message pointed at a decision maker who can influence police culture.

Put Longwood on Boston’s Safe Cycling Map

Team: Reem Alfaiz, Argyro Nicolaou, Michelle Thomas

Our team created a video for Longwood Cyclists, a group of people who live or work in the Longwood area and want to make sure that Longwood gets its share of safe cycling infrastructure in the wake of the GoBoston 2030 campaign. This video is intended for online use and dissemination. We also created an accompanying Poster to be distributed and put up in the broader Mission Hill area.

The data from the GoBoston 2030 dataset show that a large portion of Boston residents are concerned with safe and easy bike access. Our audience is cyclists in Boston, specifically those living in or commuting to the Mission Hill and Longwood areas. We hope to encourage bikers to reach out to the Mission Hill Council Representative, Josh Zakim, and call for infrastructure reform to accommodate and encourage bike commuting as well as sign a petition to be sent to him. The GoBoston 2030 campaign has already shown that Boston’s City Council and the Mayor are committed to some sort of transport infrastructure change. Our video and campaign want to make sure that the Mission Hill area, and Longwood in particular, where so many people work, don’t get left behind in this process.

When looking through the GoBoston 2030 data, we noticed that the majority of questions written in were about issues of access (1297 out of 4719). We took a closer look at these questions and noticed two things; 25% of the questions were asking for safer options for bikers (325 out of 1297 questions), and some of the most striking ones mentioned the Longwood medical area, specifically problems on Huntington Avenue and Longwood Avenue. Some examples:

When do you think the Longwood Medical Area will be connected to the Charles River Bike paths via a barrier separated cycle track or lane?

As a commuter from Watertown to the Longwood medical area, I bike as much as possible.  The worst part of my ride by far is the portion on Longwood Avenue. I avoid Huntington Ave at all costs as it is substantially worse.

How are you going to improve bike paths and bike safety on major roads like Boylston St, Brookline Ave and Huntington Ave ?

We chose to create a character from this area using exact quotes from the data. In this way, we are putting a face and giving a voice to questions from the spreadsheet. Creating a character from the area using a combination of voices and issues will help us reach a wide audience and make people personally connect with the issue.

We chose to tell this story as a personal narrative video.  A video allows us to show an actual person, making it far easier to relate and pull the audience into the story more. It also allows us to physically show the route of many commuters. This is very relatable to Boston residents and shows recognizable landmarks. It also visually depicts the problems and dangers of a very common commute, while grounding it in reality. This also provides additional impact, clarification for those less familiar with cycling, and intense relatability for cyclists that know the area. Video also lends itself well to changes in mood, letting us shift the tone at the area of the character’s  accident to add weight to the incident. The video contains a direct call for action at the end, so viewers feel there is a way they can help bring change to the issues they just witnessed. In all, a video with a character directly rooted in the data creates a more personal data story with direct visual impact at a high level of relatability for Mission Hill and Boston residents.




Skittles for days

This “Nursing Your Sweet Tooth” graphic makes a visual argument that we (Americans) are eating too much sugar by hyperbolically representing the amount of sugar the average American consumes over time with absurd physical objects (i.e. in a lifetime, this much).

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The presentation also gives information about the main sources of sugar in the American diet (focusing specifically on soda), and negative health outcomes associated with high intake. The graphic is on, so it seems likely that the intended audience is white, middle to upper class businessmen, who, interestingly, consume comparatively less sugar than lower-income black or Hispanic consumers.

The goal of the data presentation seems to be fear mongering: awaken people to the ill effects of their high dietary sugar consumption, and they will be so disgusted with their habits that they will never again touch a can of soda or a candy bar. The colors of the graphic – red, black, white and gray – and some of the typology evoke Coca-Cola, which helps drive home the point about soda’s contribution of sugar to the American diet. I think the graphic is effective in conveying a sense that the American diet is too high in added sugar, which is certainly true: 13% of calories in the American diet come from added sugars, which is significantly higher than the amount from every authoritative organization (USDA, WHO, etc). However, in terms of behavior change impact on the intended audience, the graphic seems relatively ineffective. First, the intended audience probably does not consume high levels of sugar, so it doesn’t make sense to target them as a population that needs to cut down on sugar intake. Second, some of the illustrations meant to shock the reader are over-exaggerated and nonsensical (i.e. in one lifetime we eat the amount of sugar in 1,767,900 Skittles), and end up conveying very little substantive information.

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