Reading and Discussion 2: Week 2 – Why Visualize

by gleicherapi on August 1, 2017

Initial Posting Due: Tue, Sep 12 at (Canvas Link)


First: Unrelated to the main topic, we will be talking about how to critique and practicing critique in class. Usually, we just critique – but one of my goals in this class is to teach people to do it more effectively. This chapter (which is part of a whole book on how to critique productively) will hopefully give you some things to think about, although ultimately, I think it just takes practice.

  • “Understanding Critique,” Chapter 1 of Discussing Design by Adam Conor and Aaron Irizarry, O’Reilly Books, 2015. Chapter available online as a sampler from the publisher. (pp. 7-25, 18 pages)

The main readings are intended to give you a sense of why we do visualization, and why we bother to try to do it correctly. If you haven’t done the first week’s readings, please do them first.

Again, there is a lot of reading this week, but again, it’s fairly light.

  1. The Dance of Meaning (Chapter 9 of Visual Thinking for Design) (Ware-9-Meaning.pdf 2.7 mb)

    Yes, we’re reading the last chapter first. You might want to skim through the book leading up to it (I basically read quickly) it in one sitting. Reading the ending might motivate you to read the whole thing (which we will later). The perspective here is how the perceptual science might suggest why vis is interesting.

  2. Why Visualize (Chapter 1 of Cairo’s The Functional Art) (theFunctionalArtCh1.pdf 7.8 mb)

  3. The Beauty Paradox (Chapter 3 of Cairo’s The Functional Art) (theFunctionalArtCh3.pdf 11.4 mb)

    This chapter gets into the philosophy of evaluation. Cairo has an interesting (and non-academic) perspective. We’re reading this now (rather than when we get to evaluation) because it’s good food for thought, and it has a good discussion of Tufte.

  4. Visual Statistical Thinking (Chapter 2 of Tufte’s Visualizing Explanations) (3-VE-2-Visual-Statistical-Thinking.pdf 25.1 mb)

    Chapter 2 “Visual Statistical Thinking” from Tufte’s Visual Explanations (pages 26-53; 27 pages) . The perspective here is historical – what can happen when Visualizations work or fail. Reading Cairo’s chapter first will make it easier to appreciate Tufte.

  5. The first 17 pages of the Introduction to “Information Visualization: Using Visualization to Think” by Card, Mackinlay, and Schneiderman (01-InfoVis-CardMackinlaySchneid-Chap1.pdf – 77mb).

    This is a 1999 book that consists of this intro, and a bunch of seminal papers. The examples are old, but the main points are timeless. It is the best thing I know of that gets at Vis from the cognitive science perspective. The rest of the chapter (past page 17) is good too, but more redundant with other things we’ll read – so it’s optional. Although, every time I go back to it, I am amazed how good this is – despite being old.

Online Discussion

Initial Posting Due: Tue, Sep 12 at (Canvas Link)

In this week’s lecture and readings, we asked the question “Why Visualize?” Hopefully, you got the answer “because well designed visualization can be useful,” and a sense of why this is.

For this week’s discussion, I’d like you to think about those two things. Make a posting about each question.

  1. Why does one make a visualization? What are the purposes of visualizing? What might you try to achieve by doing it?

  2. Why is visualization an attractive way to present or interact with information? What are the alternatives? What can well designed visualizations do that other modalities cannot? (cognitive and perceptual perspectives come in here)

At this point, you probably don’t have the whole story – we’ll be expanding on these questions over the course of the semester. But from the readings (this week’s and last week’s) you’ve seen many examples, and gotten a taste of some of the factors that make visualization uniquely effective (when done correctly).

As usual, make the two required postings and discuss with your online group. These questions are more about making you think about the topic, rather than having right and wrong answers. (There are lots of right answers, but there are also some wrong ones)

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