Who has died from COVID-19 in Canada?

Country/area: Canada

Organisation: Radio-Canada

Organisation size: Big

Publication date: 8 Jun 2020

Credit: Nael Shiab, Daniel Blanchette Pelletier, Francis Lamontagne, Melanie Julien

Project description:

During the COVID pandemic in Canada last year, the general public heard everyday about the number of people who died. But how old were they? Where did they live? I felt that we should publish a story to give the public a more precise idea of who died because of this coronavirus. I decided to create an interactive 3D dataviz in which each death is gravitating particle.

Impact reached:

This project is one of our most-read for 2020. The visual approach had been very appealing to the readers, even if the topic is a very sad one. They also loved the fact that it works as well on desktops as on mobile phones. I think we published it at the right time too. We had thousands of deaths in Canada at the time, but no stories to explain who died in a simple visual way.

Techniques/technologies used:

I created a React (javascript library) custom template to keep the visualization visible at all times, while the user presses on the arrows on the side of the screen (or the arrows on its keyboards) to move from a scene to the other. For mobile phones, I coded the template to use the swipe gesture, which is more natural for touch screens. For the 3D universe, I used ThreeJS (javascript library) to create the particles and to animate them. Behind the hood, it’s using the WebGL technology. I also coded a Node.js scraper to retrieve the detailed data on COVID-19 deaths in Canada.

What was the hardest part of this project?

I had to learn how to use the ThreeJS library by myself. It’s mostly used for commercial purposes or video games. But I couldn’t find great examples for journalistic data visualization purposes! So I had to figure out many things by myself.

What can others learn from this project?

With this project, I think other reporters can learn how 3D dataviz could help to explain topics involving many numbers to the general public. 3D scenes have an extraordinary potential for immersive experiences. On top of it, it uses WebGL technology which makes the dataviz very efficient, even on mobile phones.

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