I gave a talk at the University of Washington a few weeks ago. This is an extended version of my BELIV paper An Empire Built on Sand from last year, with more examples and a lot more jokes. You’ll learn about various things we know and don’t know about visualization, and also whether spinach and carrots actually are good for you.
Many thanks to Karen Cheng for the invitation, the UW Division of Design and the UW Simpson Center for the Humanities, and all the people who came to the talk and who played along! It’s really enjoyable to give a talk with an enthusiastic crowd like that.
The video is missing the animated transitions I used in a few places, but for the most part you will get almost the full experience. Some things are just better live…
The actual talk is about 40 minutes, with the rest Q&A. Below is the abstract for the talk:
We know some things about data visualization, and we don’t know others. But it turns out that many of the things we think we know, we actually don’t. Much of what we believe about charts and visualization is based less on evidence and well-constructed science than we like to believe. Are bar charts always the best choice? Are embellishments bad? Are pie charts really evil? Is animation always distracting? When might it work?
Instead of well-run experiments and real evidence, many supposed rules are based on opinion, aesthetic judgments, and incomplete or oversimplified studies. You wouldn’t know that from the level of conviction with which these things are often stated. In this talk, I will show you that some of the things we just assume to be true are actually wrong. There are many things we don’t really know—and it is important to ask, how do we know that?