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8 Podcasts for Historians who want to get into Data Visualisation.
by Graeme Kemp

Podcasts have become absolutely integral to my daily life. I often start the day listening to something inspirational with my morning coffee. In normal times, my commute to work offers the perfect length of time for a podcast episode (sadly reduced to 20 steps currently). I often potter around the house gardening, cooking or tiding while listening to some podcast in my free time.

In my day job, I spend a lot of time with sheets of data and cleaning them, so they are analysed correctly. If you have ambitions of becoming a digital humanist or data visualiser, you too will likely spend the vast majority of your time this way. Thankfully most of the data-wrangling operations become a bit rote after a while. This has provided me with the perfect environment to multitask and enhance my skills by listening to a podcast episode. Indeed, some of the data cleaning workflows I now use were inspired by hearing about some tool or process.

One of the biggest challenges of combining the fields of humanities and data visualisation is keeping up with the current trends and technologies. As a historian, I have a pile of books, papers and documents which I need to read to produce research in that discipline. At the same time, the technology world does not wait for me. It moves on at a relentless pace, with new trends, tools and stacks emerging all the time. Podcasts have provided me with a means to keep up with what is going on in the tech world.

Getting into technology or programming can feel impossible because it can take so long to grasp the active terminology: Is Java the same language as Javascript? What is an API anyway, and why is everyone asking about them at conferences? Linked data, GraphQL, Single Page Applications, Git vs Github, IIIF manifests, Frameworks, CSV, Python and Pandas, and so on. The terminology can simply be overwhelming. It can feel impossible to grasp what people mean by concepts that have quickly become mainstream in the field.

When asked how to get into data visualisation, I always emphasise that it is like learning a foreign language. You have to get comfortable with the vocabulary. The number one skill you should absolutely cultivate is communicating what you want to do, why you want to do it, and how you are thinking of doing it. This enables you to google a solution or tutorial, reach out on social media, or ask colleagues for assistance. Podcasts are fantastic for helping you get a grounding in the terminology of a discipline. Listening to others discuss what they have built, why they have built it, or hear about their learning journey has been an invaluable resource for me.

In this post, I thought it might be helpful to lay out some podcasts I have listened to over the years and have inspired and taught me so much. I would highly recommend these to anyone looking to start out in data visualisation.

So, in no particular order:

Storytelling with Data

This podcast is hosted by Cole Nussbaumer Knaflic, who has written some great books on data visualisation. Each episode features a guest speaker and thematic topic - from maps to effective presentation techniques. An excellent episode for beginners to data visualisation is “What is Data Visualization?”

Data Stories

Podcast hosted by Enrico Bertini and Moritz Stefaner. It provides engaging discussions of many of the topics within the field of data visualization, so it is a fantastic way of building up your reading list. Check out “Edward Tufte’s complete work with Sandra Rendgen”


Learning to code for the first time. No problem. Inspiration and ideas on how to begin your journey are available in this podcast from industry leaders. Accessible introductions to many programming topics are available, which is great if you are still trying to work out what solution might be best suited to a particular problem. From “How to communicate complex technical topics” to “What you need to know about APIs”.

Learn to Code with Me

Hosted by Laurence Bradford, this podcast provides another great entry point into the world of coding. Often has inspirational episodes that feature a guest who has transitioned into the world of tech from another industry. Check out “From Glassblower to Software developer using Free Coding Resources with Michael Pimentel” for a taste of what is on offer.

SuperDataScience Podcast

Long running podcast on machine learning, artificial intelligence and various data science topics. Features deep dives from experts and introductory overviews of different tools as well. Check out “The Path the Data Visualization” or Using Data Visualization Tools SuperDataScience

Syntax. Web Development

Not a data visualisation podcast specifically, but one about web development. If you are serious about data visualisation then you would do well to pick up some grounding in web technologies - especially javascript and css. Presented by Wes Bos and Scott Tolinski, this provides a really engaging discussion all that is going on in this area. Check out 2020 In Review to see the sort of topics they cover.

Javascript Jabber

A great weekly podcast discussing the Javascript language. Of all the visualisation libraries to learn D3.js, this is currently the most important if you want to develop bespoke web visualisations. Check out “D3.js with Ben Clinkbeard” Or to build up your developer chops, “Things Every Javascript Developer Must Know”

Talk Python to Me

If you are not going to be working with Javascript for visualisation, you almost certainly will be using Python. I think this is one of the best podcasts to get you into the world of Python out there. Check out “HoloViz - a suite of tools for Python visualization” Or for more of an intro to learning Python, “Learning (and teaching) Python in a vacuum”

I hope you may find this post useful. Feel free to let me know what podcasts you subscribe to.

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