InfoVis Panel: The Impact of Social Data Visualization

Visualization for the masses is a powerful means of communication, in an age where we have access to incredible amounts of data, but still little understanding based of what it all means. I have argued that visualization sets information free, I have criticized Swivel and Many-Eyes, and I have argued for reassessing who our users are. At Vis/InfoVis, I am organizing a panel with people from Many-Eyes, Swivel, and Gapminder.

The list of speakers is quite impressive (in alphabetical order): Brent Fitzgerald (Swivel), Ola Rosling (Gapminder), Fernanda ViƩgas (Many-Eyes), and Martin Wattenberg (Many-Eyes, but see below).

The discussion will revolve around the new phenomenon of visualization websites for the masses, and how visualization is used to communicate information to a broad audience. While we often build visualizations for specific purposes and for domain experts, visualization is being used to communicate all kinds of data to much broader audiences. An Inconvenient Truth and gapminder are good examples that show that people are not afraid of graphs, and that they can be used to communicate data in an effective and engaging way. Many-Eyes and Swivel take this idea further by letting people upload and analyze their own data, and providing the ability to combine it with others’. The results can be discussed and refined, and people can offer different points of view.

While visualization for domain experts deals with the data they know about and tend to also know the contents of (at least roughly), these new developments open up completely new perspectives on the world around us, and allow us to understand it in much more profound ways than before.

There are two changes in the speakers as compared to the panel description in the program: Ola Rosling will stand in for his father Hans Rosling, who cannot make it to the conference. Warren Sack won’t be able to make it to the conference either, so I asked Martin Wattenberg to talk about visualization and journalism. I had tried to keep this panel balanced between the different websites/companies, so Martin will not be allowed to talk about Many-Eyes. ;) His topic is more overarching, and a worthy alternative to Warren Sack’s theories.

Come see/listen to the statements of the panelists and take part in the discussion! Monday Oct 29, 2pm at Vis/InfoVis/VAST.

Comments

  1. says

    Other popular data visualizations using data freely available on the http://WWW...

    http://www.orgnet.com/divided.html
    http://www.firstmonday.org/issues/issue7_4/krebs/

    The second link walks you through the process of data gathering and mapping.
    One thing to keep in mind — a map is useful based on what it includes AND what it leaves out. Therefore knowledge of the space being mapped and how people read/use maps is important. Context is key in making a map and reading map.

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