Data Visualization: an Art or Science?

Many opinions differ on the topic of how people consume Data Visualization. Is it a step back in time, i.e. is it of historical benefit? Or is it just like you would visit a gallery: you think pensively at the presentation trying different ways to interpret it's true meaning. We'd like to get deeper into the true meaning of Data Visualizations; getting past text and figures, and finding other characteristics in the data. In order to do this it's important we approach them with a pinch of salt, that is to say, to try and connect the data presented to us to the subconscious in such a way that it will yield a different understanding. Many of the projects vary enormously in subjects, formats, and so on, however there are also big differences between private and public data visualizations. Most of us only really know about the public ones, with which most of the time the data is open-sourced and more viewer reasoning. On the private side, they appear to be more functional, and perhaps more focused, as the viewing numbers are much lower.

Data Visualizations serve as multi-functional points of reference, as well as having cognitive effects on the user, triggering emotions and developing differing opinions. As well as this, people who publish their work based on data readily available to them put the time and effort into making them; in an attractive and informative manner. So gathering the data is the scientific part, but the end product is certainly artistic and can be quite easy on the eye.

This video was taken from the PBS Off Book Webisode:

The Art of Data Visualization

"It's not about "know your audience", it's "respect your audience" and really know your content" -Edward Tufte

This video goes more in detail in the creation, architecture, and variation in different Data Visualization projects. It includes, along with Edward Tufte, Julie Steele (O’Reilly Media), Josh Smith (Hyperakt), Jer Thorpe (Office for Creative Research). It is interesting to hear different opinions on Data Visualization, such as Jer stating that “Data Visualization is about Revelation – seeing something you have never seen before." What he means here is that finding a key characteristic that differentiates data science from business intelligence. Going from informative visualizations to infographics, we can see how data has emerged as a vital part of modern life that entering into the realm of art, where data-driven visual experiences challenge viewers to find personal meaning.

Faithfully yours,

The Captain