On a little street in Singapore… A road map of history, culture and society

Category: Best data-driven reporting (small and large newsrooms)

Country/area: Singapore

Organisation: Singapore Press Holdings – The Straits Times

Organisation size: Big

Publication date: 29/06/2019

Credit: Aloysius Tan, Alyssa Karla Mungcal, Bessa Nicoletta, Goh Yan Han, Hannah Yan, Lee Sujin, Raihanah Ruslan, Rebecca Pazos, Trinity Tan and Yu Sheng Sin.

Project description:

This project, published during the year Singapore celebrated its bicentennial in 2019, takes a look at how the country’s past is quietly preserved in the names of its streets. For a country which doubled the number of its streets in just half a century, the names reveal throwbacks to British colonial times, a stunning array of Malay words and other surprising references.

The data for this was manually compiled from various resources, including two books publishing on the topic. Over 3,500 streets were classified, geolocated and individually checked to create this data-driven lifestyle story.

Impact reached:

This project was shared by many on social media, particularly amongst the local heritage community.

The authors of the two books used in this project were overwhelmed by the visualisation of their work. They have asked us if they can include links to this project in upcoming reprints of their books.

This project appeals to anyone who lives in Singapore or who has an interest in Singapore’s history, and it will serve as a reference piece for years to come.

Techniques/technologies used:

For the data collection, we just used a Google spreadsheet and pivot tables for the analysis. For the final project, we use our usual combination of Javascript frameworks like D3.js and Vue.js to construct the page. Adobe Illustrator for the images and illustrations.

What was the hardest part of this project?

There were two books we had to use to manually compile all the meanings and classify them. It took around 2 to 3 weeks to go through as many streets as we could, compare the explanations in each book as they would differ on occasion, and then verify with another resource. This was the most difficult part but after doing this, we know have a great spreadsheet that we are sharing with our community, other friends in the industry and colleagues because the data can be interpreted and used in many different ways.

What can others learn from this project?

Don’t be scared to embark on getting your own data. We had a group of interns help us with the collection of the data and they enjoyed being able to get to the end of this and see the fruits of their labour by suggesting visual ideas for the final project because they had the best understanding of the data. Also, doing the collection process meant that we were able to tell a more complete picture and this project continues to be used as a resource for the Singapore heritage community.

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