A cause for celebration — issue #17

A cause for celebration — issue #17


As pictures of Thanksgiving meals filled my social media, I found it hard to believe that we're almost at the year's end.

No one would have ever foreseen that the world would spend 2020—a new decade—in chaos, confusion, and with only a glimmer of hope at the end, with vaccine trials around the world showing promise.

COVID-19 aside, the year has also been eventful here in Singapore, although perhaps a less tumultuous one than some of our neighbours have had. We experienced watershed General Election, in which many debates on race and gender happened, and politicians discussed climate change in more serious terms for the first time.

These events tied in some discussions we've been having in Kontinentalist for a long time. What causes and stories can we lend our voice to? What topics deserve more detail and explanation?

We're proud that despite working from home, we've still had the opportunity to partner with some amazing local groups to talk about these key issues. Just look at the SG Greenies, a group of young climate change activists who gathered and studied data ahead of the General Election to assess our Parliamentarians' engagement with climate issues. Or the Singapore Heritage Society, which shared with us how heritage sites have adapted to urban development and changing lifestyles. Or even AWARE, arguably Singapore's most influential women's rights and gender issues group, which celebrated their 35 years of advocacy and activism in Singapore this November.

All that said, we're winding down our work to catch a much-needed break this December, even as we go back to the drawing board with our ideas and ambitions for 2021. We hope to hear more from you on what important stories we should tell and what types of data we should sink our teeth into. Please let us know your thoughts at hello@kontinentalist.com.

We hope your December provides some reprieve from the rest of 2020, too!

Pei Ying

Stories of local activists

image of a temple in singapore
Places of worship house more than their gods and deities—they also gather and connect communities in their spaces. Learn about how this affects the preservation efforts of historic sites in our collaboration with the Singapore Heritage Society.  
aware 35 years of women activism
It's easy to take women's rights in Singapore for granted—some may even claim that gender inequality no longer exists here. But rights don't just fall from the sky; it is thanks to the continuous work of women's organisations like the Association of Women for Action and Research (AWARE) that gender barriers can be dismantled.
image of singapore's skyline
How do we make sure the public gets heard? In Singapore, one way public concerns reach the highest lawmakers of the land—Parliament—is through Members of Parliaments (MPs). So it bears examining what questions get asked, and to whom. The SG Greenies do exactly that, combining four years of Parliamentary Questions to find out how MPs are addressing environmental concerns. 

Vis spotlight: Making of the AWARE milestones' timeline

Our brief for #AWAREFest2020 was straightforward: visualise 35 years of AWARE's milestones to celebrate their 35th birthday. The milestones were mostly qualitative, so we decided a timeline would be the best approach.

A timeline is technically simple enough: it's linear, chronological, and has markings at different points to indicate events.

But we didn't want to just create a decorative timeline and call it a day. We wanted to encourage curiosity by making a nonstandard timeline and invite people to inspect each milestone for themselves. We also agreed that the timeline will be static, with all the content laid bare and not hidden behind a tooltip. Our eventual timeline, made out of bars that show the length of each AWARE milestone, was influenced by the work of product designer Aljaž Vindiš, who mapped out the lifespan of Monsanto's products and companies.
Deciding what the bars represent took some brainstorming. With AWARE's expertise, we had plenty of information to visualise, so the challenge was to cover their history adequately without overcrowding the visualisation with text.

Eventually, we landed on AWARE's leaders and programmes, with extra details elaborated as annotations. From an initial design of branched-out annotations, we chose to use numbered annotations, which were cleaner and more readable. Even though we all liked how the branches' unwieldy lines contrasted against the horizontal bars, clarity always takes precedence.
For social media, we created an animated version of the timeline, where the bars appear year by year. This let us zoom in on the details on social media platforms and make the vis attention-grabbing. 
We added a musical touch to the vis, too, using TwoTone. TwoTone is a data sonification app that converts data into music. It works by assigning a musical instrument to each data point and runs through the data line by line to form a symphony. You can "listen" to our timeline here

More movers and shakers in activism

Get inspired by these stories surrounding activism.
  • Here's our story on Rohingya refugees at sea, created in collaboration with UNHCR. Please take a moment to listen to their stories, as told via our writer Zafirah and by the refugees themselves, in audio narration.
  • An interactive flashback of a year in Greta Thunberg's life.
  • This story viscerally shows the scale of shift workers in the United States using a blend of interactive visualisation, quotes, and videos of affected workers.
  • Market Cafe Magazine is a print-only zine dedicated to data visualisation. It's designed to be a reprieve from the digital noise we consume every day. While it covers a wide range of topics, the magazine chooses themes of immediate importance, so activism topics often make the cut.
  • In this talk, data vis designer, educator, and media activist, Mushon Zer-Aviv asks how we can evoke empathy in data visualisation and how it can lead to action.