May 21st, 2010 | Daniel Chamberlain
I want to have conversations about dozens of the ideas already put on the table, but a topic that I have been thinking a lot about lately are ways in which we might think about how data visualizations might circulate beyond academic boundaries. By this I mean that while we should think long and hard about the data we choose to visualize and we should think reflexively about the role of humanistic inquiry as we move toward graphic representations, we might also consider how creative and thoughtful visualizations might be deployed as forms of public scholarship.
The best visualizations (and infographics) present a complex set of information in a creative form that respects the complexity of the issues while expressing an argument at the same time. Even as infographics are circulating through mainstream media outlets and are increasingly trending as social media phenomenon, data visualization efforts are a key aspect of a number of innovative scholarly projects. I would like to press a little bit on the idea that creative visualizations – which might well be a collaborative effort between scholars, coders, and designers (and scholar-coders, coder-designers, etc.) – might allow critical work to circulate in quite public ways.
At the same time, while we should certainly develop and expand our individual and collective repertoire in this realm, we should also consider the role of data visualization in teaching digital visual fluency skills to our students. While a fair amount of creativity and technical skill is needed to create some types of visualizations, students can begin with more manageable, off-the-shelf visualization tools and still begin to learn how to effectively decode their ideological and technological foundations.