We all use data all the time, but what exactly is data? How do different programs know what to do with our data? How is visualizing data different from other uses of data? And isn’t everything inside a computer data in the end?
Take a JPEG image file and a CSV file. Which of these two is data? Is one of them more obviously data than the other? I think the key difference is the intent behind the data and its primary interpretation.
Our mental model of a dataset changes the way we ask questions. One aspect of that is the shape of the data (long or wide); an equally important issue is whether we think of the data as a collection of rows of numbers that we can aggregate bottom-up, or as a complete dataset that we can slice top-down to ask questions. [Read more…] about Row-Level Thinking vs. Cube Thinking