Past Meetup

Visual Trumpery: A Talk by Alberto Cairo

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Visual Trumpery: How to fight against fake data, fake facts, and fake visualizations —from the left and from the right

A talk by Alberto Cairo, the Knight Chair in Visual Journalism at the University of Miami and the author of the books The Functional Art: An Introduction to Information Graphics and Visualization (2012) and The Truthful Art (2016).

The event is free, but you must RSVP here on Meetup to attend!

The Visual Trumpery talk tour site:

Notes from Alberto:

The very title of my talk is an example of its content. It’s intended to trigger your ideological defenses and trick you into believing what is not so.

The English word “trumpery” means worthless nonsense, something that is showy and deceitful at the same time. Trumpery can occur in text, verbally, or visually. This non-partisan talk focuses on the visual, examining misleading charts, graphs, and data maps designed by individuals and organizations from across the political spectrum.

I’ll use these examples to equip you with a solid understanding of “graphicacy,” the term I use to refer to visual literacy. I believe a literate, numerate, and graphicate citizenry is the best antidote for a world where trumpery runs rampant.

Join me in the fight against it.

Here are the four questions I’ll mention during the talk to assess the quality of any data visualization:

1. Is the graphic based on reliable sources and data?

Any document or news story that uses data and graphics ought to clearly identify its sources and link to them. You, the reader, must be able to check whether they are trustworthy, and whether writers and designers handled the data properly.

2. Does the graphic include enough information to be truthful?

Visualizations should never simplify information. They ought to clarify it. You’ll soon understand the difference, thanks to the examples I’ll share with you.

3. Is the data correctly represented?

Data visualization is based on visual encoding. Numbers are mapped onto spatial properties of objects, like their height, length, size, color, etc. When seeing a chart, graph, or map, always ask yourself: Are the properties representing the data proportional to the data itself?

4. Did the journalist or designer take uncertainty into account?

Data is hardly ever precise or certain, regardless of what visualizations and news stories often suggest. A good understanding of uncertainty and elementary probability can help you decide what to think or how to act based on what you read.

LOCATION: Hughes Trigg Student Center (HTSC) Theater

SMU Main Campus, 3140 Dyer Street, Dallas, TX

PARKING: See Below!


6:30 - Doors Open for Networking & Refreshments

6:50 - Group Announcements

7:00 - Visual Trumpery by Alberto Cairo

8:30 - Wrap Up and Closing Remarks

Alberto Cairo is the Knight Chair in Visual Journalism at the University of Miami. He's also the director of the visualization program at UM’s Center for Computational Science. He's also been an executive editor at several news publications in Spain and Brazil, such as El Mundo and Época magazine, where he worked as a data journalist and graphics designer. He is the author of the books:

The Functional Art: An Introduction to Information Graphics and Visualization ( (2012) and The Truthful Art ( (2016). He also works as a permanent consultant for companies like Google and Microsoft, and in occasional projects for SAS, Nielsen, Gallup, McMaster-Carr, etc.

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