Thursday, November 26, 2009

Information Visualization Manifesto

Manuel Lima is an expert on the topic of Information Visualization. He publishes a good site called Visual Complexity. According him, the site intends to be a unified resource space for anyone interested in the visualization of complex networks. He also publishes a blog called VC blog. He wrote in his blog an interesting Information Visualization Manifesto, where he listed 10 directions for any project on Information Visualization:

Form Follows Function
Form doesn’t follow data. Data is incongruent by nature. Form follows a purpose, and in the case of Information Visualization, Form follows Revelation.

Start with a Question
“He who is ashamed of asking is afraid of learning”, says a famous Danish proverb. A great quality to anyone doing work in the realm of Information Visualization is to be curious and inquisitive. Every project should start with a question.

Interactivity is Key
As defined by Ben Shneiderman, Stuart K. Card and Jock D. Mackinlay, “Information Visualization is the use of computer-supported, interactive, visual representations of abstract data to amplify cognition”. This well-known statement highlights how interactivity is an integral part of the field’s DNA. Any Information Visualization project should not only facilitate understanding but also the analysis of the data, according to specific use cases and defined goals. By employing interactive techniques, users are able to properly investigate and reshape the layout in order to find appropriate answers to their questions. This capability becomes imperative as the degree of complexity of the portrayed system increases. Visualization should be recognized as a discovery tool.

Cite your Source
Information Visualization, as any other means of conveying information, has the power to lie, to omit, and to be deliberately biased. To avoid any misconception you should always cite your source. By doing so you allow people to review the original source and properly validate its authenticity. It will also bring credibility and integrity to your work.

The power of Narrative
Human beings love stories and storytelling is one of the most successful and powerful ways to learn, discover and disseminate information. Your project should be able to convey a message and easily encapsulate a compelling narrative.

Do not glorify Aesthetics
Aesthetics are an important quality to many Information Visualization projects and a critical enticement at first sight, but it should always be seen as a consequence and never its ultimate goal.

Look for Relevancy
Extracting relevancy in a set of data is one of the hardest pursuits for any machine. This is where natural human abilities such as pattern recognition and parallel processing come in hand. Relevancy is also highly dependent on the final user and the context of interaction. If the relevancy ratio is high it can increase the possibility of comprehension, assimilation and decision-making.

Embrace Time
Time is one of the hardest variables to map in any system. It’s also one of the richest. If we consider a social network, we can quickly realize that a snapshot in time would only tell us a bit of information about the community. On the other hand, if time had been properly measured and mapped, it would provide us with a much richer understanding of the changing dynamics of that social group. We should always consider time when our targeted system is affected by its progression.

Aspire for Knowledge
A core ability of Information Visualization is to translate information into knowledge. It’s also to facilitate understanding and aid cognition. Every project should aim at making the system more intelligible and transparent, or find an explicit new insight or pattern within it. It should always provide a polished gem of knowledge.

Avoid gratuitous visualizations
To the growing amounts of publicly available data, Information Visualization needs to respond as a cognitive filter, an empowered lens of insight, and should never add more noise to the flow. Don’t assume any visualization is a positive step forward. In the context of Information Visualization, simply conveying data in a visual form, without shedding light on the portrayed subject, or even worst, making it more complex, can only be considered a failure.

No comments: