In “Story: A Definition,” visual analysis researcher Robert Kosara writes:
- ties facts together. There is a reason why this particular collection of facts is in this story, and the story gives you that reason.
- provides a narrative path through those facts. In other words, it guides the viewer/reader through the world, rather than just throwing them in there.
- presents a particular interpretation of those facts. A story is always a particular path through a world, so it favors one way of seeing things over all others.
The relevance of these ideas to statistical graphics is apparent.
From a completely different direction, in “When do stories work? Evidence and illustration in the social sciences,” Thomas Basbøll and I write:
Storytelling has long been recognized as central to human cognition and communication. Here we explore a more active role of stories in social science research, not merely to illustrate concepts but also to develop new ideas and evaluate hypotheses, for example in deciding that a research method is effective. We see stories as central to engagement with the development and evaluation of theories, and we argue that for a story to be useful in this way, it should be anomalous (representing aspects of life that are not well explained by existing models) and immutable (with details that are well-enough established that they have the potential to indicate problems with a new model).
We draw a connection to posterior predictive checking, which I earlier had argued is fundamentally connected with statistical graphics and exploratory data analysis (see this paper from 2003 and this one 2004).
I don’t have anything more to say on this right now. I just wanted to juxtapose these two perspectives, each of which connect statistical graphics to literature, but in a different way. Kosara focuses on the idea that stories have narrative and viewpoint, and Basbøll and I focus on the idea that effective stories are anomalous and immutable. All these ideas seem important to me, and it would be interesting to think about how they fit together.