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In an age of misinformation and fake news, How Charts Lie provides best practices on how we can all be smarter in interpreting charts. Alberto Cairo shares simple rules on how to accomplish this. He breaks those rules down in an accessible way and backs them up with real-world examples, including visualizations made in the 1800s by Florence Nightingale and more current data visualizations made by notable news entities.
Cairo, who is the director of the visualization program of the University of Miami’s Center for Computational Science, mentions the various ways in which charts lie, which could be due to such factors as poor design or dubious data sources. Cairo emphasizes that a chart merely shows what it shows, and that we should be cautious in deriving any grand conclusions when we read a chart. In addition, he discusses how our own biases play a factor in how we read data and suggests that we seek a “balanced media diet.”
We should use charts in a way that not only further enriches our knowledge on a topic but also acts as a conversation-starter, Cairo says. His book gives readers the tools to do both.
Reviewed by Dorris Scott, Social Science Data Curator and GIS Librarian