Say it with data — flowers optional

Last Wednesday the 12th Innovation Forum focused on the topic of information visualization was held. The event, organized by the Open Office of Innovation of the UOC, was centered on the presentation of the program Visualizar at Medialab Prado and other related projects by its director José Luis de Vicente. He’s also a cofounder of ZZZINC, an Office for Research and Innovation in Culture based in Barcelona and his interests are very wide, from data visualization, or information infrastructures to digital culture.

His talk was very engaging and opened up lots of questions afterwards. The starting point was the huge quantity of data that is being generated in our world, increasing exponentially. It is generated by humans or by machines, from video cameras, or cell phones to public administrations and adopts very different forms. And one of the better ways to turn this data into useful information is to visualize it in order to make it more understandable.

One of the first examples of data visualization used to understand a problem, was the Florence Nightingale’s Diagram of the Causes of Mortality in the Army of the East, back in 1858. The following examples shown on the presentation illustrate different interesting projects of data visualization.

This visual analysis of the 9/11 tragedy pager intercepts (messages like this sent from people and communication systems the 9/11) released by Wikileaks is an example of the different forms that a history can adopt, other than a documentary or an article.

Visualizar 2011: Comprender las Infraestructuras, José Luis de Vicente

Data visualization is very interdisciplinar, as every different point of view can explain different stories with the same data, from statistics to artists. Chris Jordan is an artist that uses data visualization to picture the Western culture in a different ways.

Journalism is also taking up the gauntlet and some newspapers have specific data driven journalism sections. The Guardian has its Data Store, where facts are sacred. And The New York Times has opened some of his data and has created a Developer Network where everyone can create its own applications and visualizations with it.

You know you have a good story when you find a proper metaphor to explain it.

And before finishing, just to mention Robert Klanten’s “Data flow : visualising information in graphic design” and Nathan Yau’s “Visualize This” as some basic bibogliography to plunge into this amazing world. So, what story would you tell with your data?

About this post

This post was first published on LibTechNotes, a blog from the Library team at the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya to share our everyday findings, solutions and inspirations.