Making Sense

Recently I have been observing mainstream media, both offline and online. It’s interesting to look at how these institutions are using data to establish their point of view. On the other hand, it is easy to trick people with some numbers. As an audience, each of us should be capable of asking the right question to validate the authenticity of the information presented to us. These problems are hard to solve, and it requires considerable amount expertise and time to address them. I would like to remind three things that may help people to think critically about the information they are consuming.

Incomplete information:

It’s an obvious trap, but we often tend to forget about it. People and organisations can selectively pick the data that supports their point of view and discard the opposite. As an audience, we should be sceptic about what is there and should be prepared to ask right questions that reveal the big picture. For example, if the data is related to a specific period, look for what happened before and after that time.

The numbers and the reality:

Numbers are abstractions of the real world. But if there is a mismatch between the representations and the real world, that is a red sign.

"Numbers on the screen are representations of the real world. Look at the real world, not just representations. Walk around what you want to learn about."

Edward Tufte

Cause-effect relationship:

Think of government policies, organisational initiatives etc. it becomes tough to establish the relationship between the cause and effect under these situations. One strategy to approach the problem would be to think about alternate possibilities. Make yourself comfortable that different actions can contribute to the same outcome.

"Everything we see, read and hear is produced for a purpose."

And keep the above sentence close to your heart, be critical about what do you see, read and hear.