Information Visualization is defined as “the process of transforming data,
information, and knowledge into visual form making use of humans’ natural
visual capabilities” (Gershon, Eick, and Card, 1998). As increasing numbers
of people have access to networked information and communications
technologies, the magnitude and velocity of information is greater than in
previous eras. We are in a data and information rich epoch, yet the sheer
amount of information can be both overwhelming and difficult to verify.
Information visualization provides a path to better understand unique
characteristics within large data sets, as well as communicate complex
scientific phenomena such as the impact of global warming. Information
visualization is not a new concept. Information visualization experts such as
Edward Tufte first began publishing design strategies for communicating
trends based on statistical inferences of large data sets in the early
1980’s (Tufte, 1982). More recently, advances in software, hardware and
social media make both the production and communication of data and
information more accessible than even a decade ago.
In the present era of rapid-fire sharing via ubiquitous social networks the
capacity for individuals and organizations to succinctly visualize a complex
idea is a critical skill. This has particular resonance when it comes to
discussions about sustainability and climate change, where misinformation by
entrenched interests is rampant and scientific rigor is all too often trumped
by unfounded doubt, saber-rattling and fear-mongering. Information
visualization can be a useful strategy to spark interest in sustainability
issues and also deepen comprehension. The Georgia Tech community can add
information visualization to our collective tool kits in order to visualize
data in engaging ways, by leveraging the full capabilities of open source
software tools, data, and design.
Those interested in developing an ability to visualize information
need access to, and capacity with, three things: legitimate sources of
information and data, multimedia visualization software tools, and
communication skills. As the subject librarian for the School of Public
Policy, I aim to have a broad and deep understanding of data sources,
particularly those that are statistically robust and openly available, and
work with members of the Tech community to help locate and validate these
sources of trusted information and data. Furthermore, the Georgia Tech
Library's multimedia instruction program provides introductory classes to
multimedia design tools and poster creation, as well as statistical tools
such as NVivo for data analysis. The Communications Center in the Clough
Commons also provides guidance on multimodal communication strategies,
including visual multimedia communications. It is not sufficient to have
access to large data sets and design software, one must also have a robust
understanding of the purpose, audience, appropriate tone, and medium, in
order to design an effective information visualization.
Gephi - The Open Graph Viz Platform
Spiralling Global Temperatures Visualization (Ed Hawkins, National Centre
for Atmospheric Science (NCAS) at the University of Reading)
Gap Minder (Hans Rosling)
Information is Beautiful (David McCandless):
Gershon, N., Eick, S. G., & Card, S. (1998). Information visualization.
interactions, 5(2), 9-15.
Tufte, E. R. (1982). The visual display of quantitative information (2nd
ed.). Cheshire, Conn.: Graphics Press.