Mat Van Den Art's Blog

4.1 Data Visualization

Posted in MDes Dissertation by matvandenart on August 11, 2010

Giambattista Vico argued, knowledge invention involves not only ingenuity and imagination, but recollection. Vico highlights by his presentation method (Scienza di ragionare) science of reasoning; that we do not need to search for new knowledge/information in new places but we can gain it by combining the information already available to us and interpreting it in appropriate innovative form better suited for current social context.

From a pragmatic standpoint, we can immediately say that visual representation is considered “good quality” when it fully satisfies the communication and analytic requirements of those for whom it was intended and created. But how can we go from a collection of abstract data to a visual representation

that both is meaningful to the data it represents and, at the same time, can be useful for acquiring new knowledge from that data?45 Riccardo Mazza in his research called ‘Introduction to Information Visualization’ further argues that there is no magic formula that, given a collection of data, shows us systematically which type of representation to use. It depends on the nature of the data, the type of information that it seeks to represent, and its intended users. But more importantly, it depends on the experience, creativity, and competence of whoever designs the representation.46

Reports, tables, charts and dashboards all deliver information, but information alone isn’t understanding. Show me the numbers and I’ll be steps closer to business insight, but to make effective decisions, I need to appreciate context, trends and consequences. Stories can bridge the gap. 47 Hans Rosling a professor of global health at Sweden’s Karolinska Institute in his GapMinder application tries to bridge the information vacuum between the graphical representation of certain datasets and the context within which the data is acquired and interpreted. Rosling refers to the communication problem between data and our understanding of it as the problem between the Mindset and the Dataset.

Video 20 )

Jonathan Harris in his recent We Feel Fine and Universe projects attempts to interpret the acquired information in innovative ways changing the way our mindset is exposed to incoming information, ultimately changing our perception and contextual understanding of the dataset. Harris in his We Feel Fine project scans internet including social networks for 500 words of feelings analyzing the context they appeared in and emotional relationships related to subject of search.

Colour signifies the emotional relationship of particular word and size is determined by the frequency of use of particular expression of feeling. We Feel Fine presents a comprehensive contemporary portrait of the world’s emotional landscape, exploring the ups and downs of everyday life in all its color, chaos, and candor. This approach to data visualization gives us an opportunity to base our emphatic enquiry around the search of particular product we are just about to buy. Wisdom of crowds notion should be able to better guide our consumer behavior under condition our mindset will be presented easily understandable dataset. This Harris’s visualization method highlights the potential of digital networks to collect and interpret data in the order to form new awareness.

As you walk up close, you can see that the collective is only made up of lots and lots of individuals. There is no bad consumer over there somewhere who needs to be educated. There is no public out there who needs to change. It’s each one of us.48

Video 21 )



44) Estelle Barrett, Barbara Bolt. Practice as research: approaches to creative arts enquiry. London (UK): I.B.Tauris & Co Ltd; 2009. p. 22

45) Riccardo Mazza. Introduction to Information Visualization: Criteria for Good Visual Representations. London: Springer; 2009. p. 12

46) Riccardo Mazza. Introduction to Information Visualization: Criteria for Good Visual Representations. London: Springer; 2009. p. 12

47) Seth Grimes. Breakthrough Analysis: Make Your Data Tell a Story.[document on the Internet]. Intelligent Enterprise; 2007 Jan 1 [cited 2010 July 6]. Available from:;jsessionid=BW5HF10TF13DPQE1GHPCKHWATMY32JVN?articleID=196602724

48) Chris Jordan. Bill Moyers Journal. [document on the Internet]. Public Affairs Television; 2009 Aug 7 [cited 2010 July 6]. Available from:

Video 20 ) Hans Rosling. Let my dataset change your mindset [podcast on the Internet]. TED; 2009 Aug [cited 2010 July 16]. Available from:

Video 21 ) Chris Jordan. Chris Jordan pictures some shocking stats [podcast on the Internet]. TED; 2009 Jun [cited 2010 July 12]. Available from:


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  1. Content « Mat Van Den Art's Blog said, on August 11, 2010 at 10:55 pm

    […] 4.1    Data Visualization […]

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