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Visualisations: The Tool to Learn New Information

19 Apr

Information is everywhere. With the revolution of the Internet, information is highly accessible too, with almost any topic readily available for us to read. Sometimes information can cause information overload, and be too overwhelming for readers to absorb properly. This is why expressing information in a different form and different content can be a good idea. Visualisation can be very effective, making it easier for readers to understand a point and absorb information more accurately.

Visualisation can take shape in many forms. It’s a tool that captures data and information, and reorganises this data into a visual piece. It can be any kind of visual experience. It makes taking in data much more exciting and can improve people’s perceptions of certain data. The most interesting visualisations are when they make the invisible, visible, allowing people to look at data in a different light, in a way they’ve never seen it before (I’ve placed an example of a clever visualisation piece at the end).

The explored readings this week discussed very insightful visualisations. For example: dashed lines. It’s such a known visualisation, yet is used as so many functions: it allows us to see hidden objects, portrays temporal movement and portrays pathways. Lines are used everywhere as a form of visualisation, and different lines mean different things. Dave Gray of Xplay and Communication nation hit the nail on the head with his description of using lines in visualisations. He said, “I think of lines: double-line, solid, dashed, dotted. Similar to typeface conventions such as black, bold, regular, light. It’s a matter of emphasis. The thicker and more solid the line, the stronger the emphasis” (Timo 2006).

Another effective visualisation is laying photos next to each other to allow for comparison. For example, to inform people of what 200 calories looks like, a very effective visualisation is by gathering different types of food which are all 200 calories, allowing people to compare how much of one type of food equates to the same amount of calories as another type of food. The example can be seen below:

Different Foods, All Containing Exactly 200 Calories

 Picture Source: http://sweettater.files.wordpress.com/2010/01/picture-14.png

The reading of Plato on, ‘art and illusion’ explores whether visualisations are indeed truth, or an image of truth. The main point from this reading is that images are not the actual truth, but they are a representation of truth; the most accurate way of portraying reality without it actually being reality. Here is an excerpt of the conversation (Plato n.d.):

Str. A resemblance, then, is not really real, if, as you say, not true?

Theaet. Nay, but it is in a certain sense.

Str. You mean to say, not in a true sense?

Theaet. Yes; it is in reality only an image.

Str. Then what we call an image is in reality really unreal.

I think that some very effective visualisations are ones that are interactive. They create a new level of understanding as the viewer has to interact with the visualisation, releasing new information. The only problem with these interactive visualisations is that it can be quite confusing whether you’ve read and seen everything. At times, I’m not entirely sure I’ve read everything, and I get lost and am not sure of which stage of the visualisation I’m in. This allows for the possibility of skipping vital information and data. The Vectors Journal Editorial Staff mention this as a problem, “It is in the nature of interactive projects that you can never really be sure that you have read every word and seen every image. This is especially true of The Virtual Window Interactive, which requires patience and experimentation in order to experience it fully” (Editors and Friedberg, Anne 2007).

However, the interaction allows for better understanding and structure of the data, which is a big plus. Below is a very insightful visualisation of which countries use Facebook the most. It also gives a clear understanding of how connected everyone on Facebook is. Paul Butler, the creator of the visualisation (an intern at Facebook) wanted to see how geography and political borders affected where people lived relative to their friends and wanted to show which cities have a lot of friendships between them.

A Visualisation Showing Who Uses Facebook Around the Globe

 Picture Source: http://www.bricoleurbanism.org/

References

Arnell, Timo (2006) ‘the dashed line in use’, <http://www.nearfield.org/2006/09/the-dashed-line-in-use>

Infosthetics, n.d., ‘how does 200 calories look like’, <http://infosthetics.com/archives/2007/01/how_does_200_calories_look_like.html>

Plato (n.d.) on ‘art and illusion’ in ‘a snippet of a dialogue: Theodorus – Theaetetus – Socrates – an Eleatic stranger’ from Sophist, <http://www.ellopos.net/elpenor/greek-texts/ancient-greece/plato/plato-sophist.asp?pg=34>

Editors and Friedberg, Anne (2007) ‘The Virtual Window Interactive’ Vectors, 2(2) <http://www.vectorsjournal.org/index.php?page=7&projectId=79>

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Posted by on April 19, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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