Ana Laws: “INJECT is not only a tool, it’s a different way of thinking about journalism”

Volda has one of the highest-ranking journalism schools in Norway. Associate Professor Ana Laws (Volda University College) is working with the University of Bergen on a data visualisation tool that could be integrated into INJECT.

Could you tell me a little bit more about this data visualisation tool?

Regional newspapers in the INJECT project have started to experiment with data-driven journalism. We think therefore that the time is right to extend this research and explore how these newspapers can also start to use data visualisation and infographics tools.

Our data visualisation tool could be a form of image search, but it could also propose journalists another way of looking at the images in their archives.

At the same time, we’re not part of INJECT, so we might be able to take a little more risk developing different prototypes for this visualisation tool. It could be a possible expansion of the current INJECT tool, but doesn’t affect it if it doesn’t work. This means that we are more able to “fail fast and fail often” – as they say in California.

How are you developing this prototype?

We’re testing with the journalists to see if they would be willing to use infographics and data visualisation tools to embed visuals in their articles or as analytical tools in the stories that they write.

A few weeks ago, we had a first seminar with CEOs from the 3 INJECT partner newspapers Sunnhordland, Hordaland and Hallingdolen. They seemed very interested in the possibility to search their image archives too and said it was an untapped resource.

In a couple of weeks, we’re organising a Hackathon with the journalists to learn more about why they would or wouldn’t use such a data visualisation application.

We’re also in contact with a national newspaper in Oslo and are exploring ways to work with regional newspapers around Volda. But right now, we’re focused on finishing up a project around virtual reality with one of them.

Why is it interesting for you to work with the INJECT project?

Our data visualisation tool could be an integration in the INJECT tool, as one of the search strategies. The idea is to introduce another type of potential to the tool or the workflow of the journalists.

INJECT is very interesting, because it’s not only a tool, it’s a different way of thinking about journalism. Tools like INJECT introduce a different mind-set to journalists. I really like the features; especially the ones that are trying to stimulate journalists to think more creatively.

I love the ‘quirky’ search dimension. I also see it with our journalism students here at Volda University College. They’re very focussed, very formal and precise, but sometimes they need to open up for other types of stories to come through in the paper.