Visualising Visualisation and Data Density

Thank you to all of today’s participants in the Introduction to Data Visualisation in the Humanities seminar. I very much appreciated your thoughts, attention and hope that you each found some thoughts to take away concerning the application of data visualisation to your own research.

The suddenly recurring theme of ‘data density’ got me thinking throughout the delivery and I wanted to share my background to this and inspiration from Edward Tufte‘s The Visual Display of Quantitative Information. Tufte’s intent in referring to ‘presenting many numbers in small space’ has grounded his further creation of SparkLines – a unique, particular and somewhat extreme demonstration of the principle of data density. I believe his intent was to inspire thoughtful engagement Screenshot 2013-11-04 19.07.04with the visualisation process and to remind creators/authors of the need to guide their viewers/participants in their own engagement. This is a sense of data visualisation craftsmanship that makes efficient use of space, ink (think pixels) to clearly, concisely and effectively convey a graphical representation of a data finding. I have taken this to heart – and in this waxed on the spot about the depth of data and the ability to be able to appreciate the broadest scope and drill-down to obtain greater granular detail in the pursuit of data exploration through visualisation. My own take being a reference a God’s eye view that can allow for interactive visual browsability to take in great breadth and be able to navigate through the visualisation to find individual data to support conjecture.

I will also remedy the very brief treatment I gave to Edward Tufte’s Principles of Information display and recommend you to Al Globus’ summary which builds on the main principles. You may find this some useful background. It is deeply thoughtful and a useful guiding set when you approach the art of information design – not rules, but very much principles to help engage in your own process of information visiualisation and consideration of the intent behind your engagement. Through these principles (this is sounding all slightly mystical) Tufte is, I posit, suggesting a holistic engagement with the data as part of the visualisation process. As part of this engagement and the crafting of the resulting visualisation

I look forward to engaging with you in the future and look forward to seeing you out at future workshops.

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