Critical Visualization reading response

In Critical Visualization, Peter Hall outlines three approaches to data visualization and how they aid us in comprehending large amounts of data. The article identifies the value of visualization in three areas: as a technology, as a science, and as an art form. First, from a technological standpoint, data is gathered and can be used to develop new solutions that can be beneficial and effective. Secondly, the scientific view aims at reducing the complexity of the data and quantitative analysis. Lastly is the artistic approach to data visualization, which looks at style and display aesthetics to convey a narrative that, according to Hall, ‘stimulates the visual sensory system.’ In this respect, information visualization can help shape society by allowing the statistics to come to life and providing a narrative.

To me, data visualization is a particularly powerful tool for communication and it can display information in a concrete form for easier understanding. Furthermore, the process of data visualization seems to be an effective one by creating a favorable impression with the information presented. In order to be effective there needs to be a cross-fertilization of these three contexts of visualization in order for the data to be legible. The practice of making data accessible and legible with an emphasis on statistics, scientific plausibility and fact is what will ultimately effect viewers.

The project I’m citing is from Periscopic, a data visualization firm which focuses on promoting information transparency and public awareness. This visualization graphic shows how the lives of 11,419 people were cut short by gun violence in 2013. The graphic is based on data from the FBI’s crime reports and the (WHO). Arcs represent the victim’s life from birth to death, and also show how long he or she might have lived. If you hover over each arc with the mouse it reveals more information. You can also filter and compare categories on sex, ethnicity, gun type, region, age group and time of death.


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