Data & Visual Literacy and the COVID-19 Infodemic

This post was contributed by Map & Spatial Data Librarian Theresa Quill.

Scholarly and scientific information is distributed in a variety of ways.  The COVID19 pandemic has spurred a large volume of scholarly literature, but also data sharing and data visualization to track the spread of this coronavirus and the impact of efforts to combat it. Some of this information is reliable and some of it is not.

Visual Literacy and Resources Librarian Jackie Fleming and Map & Spatial Data Librarian Theresa Quill were recently published in Digital Culture and Education, discussing their efforts to combat the COVID-19 infodemic.

It is not an exaggeration to say that the evolving situation surrounding COVID-19 is changing the world. This change includes the response and mission of academic libraries. Information about COVID-19 is being published every day in both textual and visual formats. One thing that all of this information has in common is that it is easily accessible to the public. As academic librarians, we believe that it is our job to guide our community to reliable information and teach them how to receive and interpret this information.

The democratization of data visualization and mapping tools over the past decade has meant that creating and sharing visualizations is no longer limited to the realm of experts. While this trend has been overall beneficial, it has also resulted in increased visibility for (mostly unintentionally) misleading or confusing maps and charts and places a greater burden of critically reading and evaluating visualizations on the reader.

The authors say –

“As the Map & Spatial Data Librarian and, Visual Literacy and Resources Librarian at Indiana University-Bloomington, we believed that it was our responsibility to address the surge of visual information being produced daily about COVID-19 cases. We decided that the best action to take was to create a Visual Literacy & Map LibGuide that specifically addressed data visualizations tracking COVID-19 cases. This guide lists reliable data visualizations to follow, tips for reading these visualizations, and general resources for spatial and visual literacy as well as, articles addressing COVID-19 data visualizations. Because COVID-19 is a rapidly evolving situation, we have been periodically adding information to this guide as we find it. We felt that creating this LibGuide was a good first step in developing our campus community’s visual literacy skills in the COVID-19 crisis.”

You can view the research guide here: https://guides.libraries.indiana.edu/visualliteracyandmaps

And the full article here: https://www.digitalcultureandeducation.com/reflections-on-covid19/visual-literacy-and-maps

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *