Do words matter: visualising historical policy and media narratives around opportunity and disadvantage in Australia

Sarah Goodwin, Simon D Angus, Lachlan O’Neill, Nancy Van Nieuwenhove, Ben Wu, Yingqi Zhang, Tim Dwyer

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference PaperResearchpeer-review


Despite the widely held belief that public discourse shapes and informs public policy, tracking and analysing the dynamics of public discourse over long time-frames remains a significant challenge. Myriad factors such as editorial policies, news sensationalism, election cycles, societal priorities, and political agendas can all impact the attention given, and treatment of, a range of important societal issues such as systematic disadvantage. Here, we introduce and describe 'Discourse of the Past', an interactive visualisation created for both public touch-screen exhibition and online. The visualisation presents an AI-Assisted analysis of hundreds of thousands of op-ed news articles and speeches from the major Australian mastheads and federal parliament respectively. By focusing on 23 population groups and 33 issues, we provide a rich, dynamic picture of how disadvantage is experienced in Australia and by whom. Users can discover a series of findings, such as: how News and Parliament have their own agenda and how each changes its focus over time; how some issues are more recurrent than others; how coverage and discourse intensity change relative to cycles and events; and how both discourses contribute to a better understanding of how disadvantage is lived in Australia.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings - 2023 IEEE 8th Workshop on Visualization for the Digital Humanities, VIS4DH 2023
EditorsEric Alexander, Alejandro Benito-Santos, Angus Forbes, Florian Heimerl, Houda Lamqaddam, Yangjinbo Zhang
Place of PublicationPiscataway NJ USA
PublisherIEEE, Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers
Number of pages6
ISBN (Electronic)9798350381627
ISBN (Print)9798350381634
Publication statusPublished - 2023
EventIEEE Workshop on Visualization for the Digital Humanities 2023 - Hybrid, Melbourne, Australia
Duration: 22 Oct 202322 Oct 2023
Conference number: 8th (Proceedings),years%20can%20be%20found%20here. (Website)

Publication series

NameProceedings - 2023 IEEE 8th Workshop on Visualization for the Digital Humanities, VIS4DH 2023


ConferenceIEEE Workshop on Visualization for the Digital Humanities 2023
Abbreviated titleVIS4DH 2023
Internet address


  • Human-centered computing
  • Visualization
  • Visualization design and evaluation methods

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