Ten Great Talks at Information+ 2016

The Information+ Conference took place in Vancouver earlier this year. It brought together people from information visualization and information design (and design more in general). All of the talk videos are online on the website, but since there were a lot and it’s kind of hard to decide where to start watching, I’m listing my favorites below.

I’ve posted a link to my talk about the science of pie charts before (you should watch it if you haven’t!). There were many other great talks at the conference, though. It was quite difficult to pick out only ten, but it seemed pointless to pick every single one here. I’m also leaving out the keynotes on purpose, since they get more attention anyway.

Some of these are short talks that are only about five minutes long, the long talks are 20 minutes (plus questions). So the time investment is pretty small, and you get a lot in a short amount of time.

Lisa Charlotte Rost, Goals in Data Visualization for Journalism

This was my favorite talk of the conference. Lisa puts her finger on the difference between news that get eyeballs and news that are important, and what journalism could do address that. It’s an important ethical question that isn’t discussed enough, and Lisa makes some good points while keeping the talk light.

Lena Groeger, Meat Charts: Visualizing Data with the Human Form

Lena’s talks are always fun, both in the subjects she picks and the way she delivers them. This talk is about the design of a piece about a serious subject: insurance payments for workplace accidents. But the design process and the way she describes it is hilarious (and interesting!).

Lena will also give one of the keynotes at Tapestry next year.

Karen Cheng, Proving the Value of Visual Design in Scientific Communication

Karen Cheng is a design professor at University of Washington, but her background is chemical engineering. In this talk, she describes an interesting project where she and her colleagues redesigned figures in nanotechnology papers and tested whether they worked better than the originals (they did!).

Scott Murray, Designing Online Learning Experiences for People

Scott describes some of his projects for teaching programming and data visualization, and ponders what it takes to build the right tools to really be effective in teaching people online. He has s0me good ideas for what then ideal teaching platform should look like.

Will Stahl-Timmins, Health Data Graphics: An Academic Publishing Perspective

Will works for the British Medical Journal (BMJ), where he creates visualizations and information graphics, both static and interactive. These are used both on its website and on social media to get people interested and bring them to the research articles.

Chad Skelton, How to Think like a Data Journalist

The kind of thinking behind data journalism is useful not just in journalism, but whenever people work with data. Chad makes a good case for asking the right questions and building simpler charts to walk people through your findings rather than just throwing lots of information at the consumer.

María González de Cossío, Writing a History of Mexican Railways through its Information Design

Who knew that the history of railroads in Mexico was this fascinating? María González de Cossío describes how Mexico’s geography (mountain ranges, enormous differences in elevation between important points they wanted to connect) impacted the way railroads were built, and how that was reflected in maps and information graphics.

Catherine D’Ignazio, Creative Data Literacy: Bridging the Gap Between the Data Haves and Have-nots

Data and data visualization have gone mainstream, but access to the tools and the thinking behind them is not as equal as we like to assume. Catherine D’Ignazio addresses this point, and also talks about what the data means to people and how we should be looking for data that is more relevant to people that aren’t tech geeks.

Andy Kirk, Developing Visualization Literacy: Experiences from the Front Line

Andy speaks from his experience teaching people to create visualizations from data, and provides quite a bit of his own data from his own business about the kinds of clients he has, where they are located, etc. He also has some very interesting points about how to teach people to think about data so that they’ll be able to then make their own useful visualizations.

Gregor Aisch, Data visualization and the news

Gregor delivers the big downer at the end of the conference. He discusses the differences between what journalists would want to be able to do in the face of many different devices, screen sizes, etc., and the reality of what they’re able to do given deadlines and limited resources.

There were many more talks, and you should check out the program and watch them.

This was the first Information+ conference, but the organizers are planning in co-locating the next one with VIS 2018 in Berlin.