The plausibility of factual information...

“Human reason can excuse any evil; that is why it's so important that we don't rely on it.” ― Veronica Roth (novelist)

Although I list toward the dramatic I would hardly classify myself as dystopian. Even during the worst moments of the last quadrennial I imagined a way forward. Perhaps this is privilege talking but I found hope and promise where it was offered while simultaneously studying the Constitution, law, and economic theory.

You are not entitled to your opinion. You are entitled to your informed opinion. No one is entitled to be ignorant.—Harlan Ellison

My recent thoughts settled on gloom and doom because my weekend was spent integrating collaborative commentary that I have been waiting to receive since October. My task was to create a series of about 100 data visualizations based on a word document I was sent back in October. Here is the workflow in a nutshell. Scrape tables out of aforementioned word document and bring them into Excel for creating a template to be used to eventually visualize the data. Then, upload to Tableau and begin designing thoughtful visualizations that will indeed lean toward being data intensive—no matter how often I warn against data “dumping”—but also capable of telling a narrative.

Here is the rub. Not knowing the data of interest, the timeframe of interest, or any direction besides “We hate what we have already”—I was not inclined to work multiple passes at the assignment without client direction. Here is the thing about clinical researchers and pharma types. If you ask them to select data or horror upon horror—to formulate an actual data question they become apoplectic and then stunningly silent.

Surprisingly, after a productive call with the company that hired me—all is good. There was no finger pointing, only appreciation for patience and pleasure at what I forwarded as my mock up for a way forward. This is what client work smells like. Dystopia mixed with The Office dusted with Blade Runner (more or less as I tease out who knows what, and who brings value to the collaboration)—replicant vs. human.

When it goes well I become uncharacteristically giddy. Theatrical as a descriptive term would not be wrong. Because after years and years as a medical writer and data analyst I am the proverbial messenger in the cross-hairs. Nobody apparently is fond of the person in the room with facts.

As time ramps down on 2020 and the holiday lights beckon, there are a few things I can say that I learned this year. I mean, we learn a little something every year but our slower pace of living aligned with a rapid descent into chaotic work situations, financial uncertainty, and conflicting messages about the state of our union produced less fruit. But the fruit it yielded I would argue might be a little juicier.

  1. Introverts can rule the world. I identify as an extroverted introvert. Self-defined as preferring my books, movies, and solitary time above all but if thrust into a social situation I am aptly comfortable and dare I say even known to be charming.

  2. Family is everything. Family can be loosely defined to simply mean those people you are inextricably bound either by blood or a deep sense of love and trust. The people that showed up for me made all of the difference in the world. Little acts of kindness and gratitude.

  3. Learn shit. I took a deep dive into an adjacent interest in data science. And yada yada, I am writing a book about it. There are so many layers to any topic. For example I am interested in perspective. How you and I can read the same thing and both end up with polarizing views. I dig deeper. Read the bibliography and select your next book from there. You won’t be disappointed.

  4. Read and then, read some more. Because I work with medical data nobody wants to pay me for my opinion. I also have been reading about perception and criticism. Amy Herman has a wonderful book, Visual Intelligence: Sharpen Your Perception, Change Your Life—everything I bring to my data literacy workshops has been ignited by her powerful insights. To learn about criticism, I am reading Harlan Ellison’s book, Watching. I linked to the Wikipedia page as I don’t think I can distill his appeal simply by suggesting a book on Amazon (or from your local independent bookstore).

    But this quote from the inside flap made me fast track it to my reading stack, “As an essayist, Ellison has no equal, as a film critic he has no friends.”

Have a wonderful holiday. Let’s visit again soon…