What does 2021 have in store?

I’m often reticent about New Year’s Resolution type posts – posts which list things that people will do in order to enhance their careers or fulfil their potentials. One the one hand they are great for focusing on goals which may have gone somewhat astray in the previous year, but on the other hand they can be counter-productive if they make you feel like you are not achieving what you should. I certainly don’t intend a 2020 round-up post either. Obviously, nobody could have predicted what happened in 2020. The events of the pandemic in particular will have affected all of us in different ways, and regardless of how the year’s turn of events affected each of us, the chances are that many things were more important than data visualisation aims and objectives. As 2021 begins, the future looks every bit as unpredictable (I refuse to use the word “unprecedented” in principle!)

There’s still going to a be a bit of looking forward and goal-setting in this post, but it’s almost deliberately not done on January 1st, and I don’t have hard and fast goals (let alone predictions). I do want to look back at two important data visualisation communities that have been important to me in 2020 (and before) because I’ve never really mentioned them in this blog before but they remain every bit as important to me and my commitment to them, and to look forward to one change in my own practices that I want to improve, which will hopefully form an important part of this blog.

First up is Viz for Social Good. I’ve been closely involved with this initiative for about four years now, currently sitting on the Board as their marketing lead. 2021 could well be the year that we transition to non-profit status and we have great hopes for our community. But for those unaware of it, it’s a fantastic resource allowing volunteers to create visualisations to help non-profit organisations. Our next project starts next week (I’m a fraction early to officially announce or “tease” it in my marketing capacity) but do check the social media feed and website if you’re interested in taking part. That would make a great New Year’s Resolution if you want to join a new community project, improve your viz skills and be involved helping out non-profits.

Below is an amazing visualisation from Sam Parsons summarising the submissions and projects from 2017-2020

Second up is the Data Visualization Society. I’m sure most people following this blog will be members by now – if not, you can head to the website and sign up. The biggest thing I can say about DVS is how it has blossomed from 3 co-founders to almost 20000 members in less than two years. I’ve served on the Board throughout 2020, and in this case it’s time for me to step down from the board, though I remain heavily involved, not least in heading up a committee to find eight new board members. We’re a huge, international, diverse organisation and about to run our first Outlier conference next month on February 4th-5th. It’s an online conference not to be missed! I won’t be speaking (not for the want of applying) but can’t wait to partake in the wide range of talks and activities.

And now onto the bit that comes closest to a resolution. I have a passion for my subject and for learning, and I demonstrate that through buying books. Lots of them! Books on data visualisation, and also books about interconnecting fields – design, typography, data, statistics, and the like. But whereas I’ve enjoyed reading some of them thoroughly, others have been sat unread on my bookshelf. It’s an easy habit to get into, buying a book to feel or look good, but not finding time to read and learn from it.

My bookshelf (below, and not complete – yes, there are more in overflow piles), contains a large number of books I have read and loved, along with a large number of books I have enjoyed purchasing but not yet touched. That will change in 2021!

So I would like to read and review these books, posting the reviews on this site. I’ll aim for two of these a month. Now I won’t beat myself up if at the end of December 2021 I don’t have 24 fully written up and published reviews, but it feels an attainable goal, enough at least to highlight in bold and make it my aim for the year.

I want to thank all of you for reading this and for following this blog over the years. Let’s not even try and second-guess what 2021 will be like but let’s all stay safe, contended, curious and passionate about answering questions in dataviz.

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