Category Archives: _Reading Response

Reading Response

Peter Hall’s reading “Critical Visualization” was about the value and different views or strand of visualization. He quotes researcher Colin Ware with the five-pints of the advantages of visualization “It helps us comprehend huge amounts of data; it allows us to perceive emergent properties we might not have anticipated; it can reveal problems with the data itself; it facilitates out understanding of large-scale and small scale features; and it helps us form hypotheses.”  I agree with these three points of why we should use visualization as a way to easily consume out information. It is just a more simpler and more organized way for us to gain information. Hall mostly explains three different ways visualization data can be categorized or viewed as. Which were technology, science and art. I can understand why these are the three different ways to describe visualization. I think all of these strands are needed to put together a visual way to explain a problem or topic.

This project shows the expansion in population in certain cities from the 19th century to the 20th century

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“Critical Visualization” Response

While I found the reading, Critical Visualization by Peter Hall, perhaps a little confusing I believe it was the constant referral to the beliefs and views of that of Ware, Van Wijk, and Fry as well as Halls opinion that seemed to get blurred throughout the article. I found it hard to distinguish which views belonged to whom once I would get through a page. But alas! I did pick up on key features that would allow me to form my own opinion without seeming completely lost.

I found Ware’s five-point case for visualization to be simple however enlightening. They were all very understandable and reasonable points that show the value in the advantages that come with the ability to utilize the visualization of data. These points that no doubt that helped paved the road for the wide acceptance of visualization. What I found to be the most important aspect of this article was Hall’s three-part dissection of visualization.

Hall proposed that there are three parts to data visualization which include a technological approach that focused on effective use, a Scientific approach that focused on ways to reduce the complex data sets being displayed, and an artistic approach that focuses on the aesthetic value of visualization. While Hall states that only one or two of these parts normally ever work together his belief is that all three sections should work cohesively to which I strongly agree. I feel that for this ever growing tool we call data visualization to continue to prosper and thrive into new mediums and new techniques all three parts should be able to works together. What makes visualization so effective is the ability to take complex data and make it readable in an understandable and aesthetic manner. Its supposed to help tell a story rather than unenthusiastically state the information at hand.

Below is the outside visualization project I found.


The chart shows the influence of humanistic fields on economics, which in turn influences production research and through production research influences manufacturing; and it shows the influence of the humanities on ecology, which in turn influences things connected to genetics and, say, animal behavior.

Reading Response

Peter Hall presents the value of visualization in three different ways: as technology, science and art. What was interesting to me was when he was talking about the science aspect of visualization. He writes about how difficult it can be to explain data across cultural boundaries. For instance, using red in America to symbolize a negative aspect while in Asia, red may symbolize good luck. It was also interesting how in the scientific approach, design is neglected and viewed as “too subjective”, but he then goes on to explain how important it becomes the more complex a dataset.

Quoting Colin Ware, Hall writes, “The data explosion has brought about an aestheticizing of information, to the point that it has become difficult to sort function from creative expression.” I find this statement to be too true, especially in the present day. Too often do I find myself viewing info graphics or other forms of data visualization and wondering what it is that I am actually being told. I think it is important, as a designer, to think about every aspect when visualizing data to ensure the viewer is able to comprehend the information that is given.

The CNN Ecosphere was a digital tool that visualized tweets from the Rio+20 UN conference in Brazil. The tool gathered tweets with the hashtag #RIO20 and compiled them to form a digital tree.

CNN Ecosphere


Reading Response


As Peter Hall cites in the reading, “we acquire more information through vision than through all of the other senses combined”, which is why maps and other visualization tools just make sense in our life. However, I have never really thought any deeper about these tools. The way in which Peter Hall identifies and breaks up data visualization into three categories is helpful. Looking at each category [technology, science, and art] on their own helps to understand some of the decisions behind mapping.


Some of the questions that come up in Peter Hall’s essay are:


What makes a good map/ What are you trying to show?

Technologists think it is the usefulness or usability determines the successfulness of a map.

Scientists think it’s accuracy of comprehension.

Artists think maps should provide “intellectual and aesthetic satisfaction.”


Is the map telling a story?

Ben Fry tries to tackle this question when he talks about color and hierarchy.

As designers we tend to think of these things first when we are planning. But Fry suggests we try to find out what is most interesting about your data instead. This, he suggests, will help pull out the narrative. Things [such as color and hierarchy] can be tricky because they are culturally learned conventions. [Fry gives us the example of the color red.]


Some other questions to think about when mapping are:


What was the process involved?

Was it a good mapping?


Below are some other projects I have found


The Global Flow of People

Explore new estimates of global migration flows between and within regions for five-year periods, 1990 to 2010. Click on a region to discover flows country-by-country.

The circular plot shows the estimates of directional flows between 123 countries that recorded a migration volume (immigration + emigration) of more than 100,000 people in at least two of the four time periods. Only flows containing at least 50,000 migrants are shown. The window that pops up when hovering over the plot indicates the absolute number of immigrants (total in) and emigrants (total out) over the five-year period.







Response Critical Visualization by Peter Hall

I’m not very good at reading responses. Formulating my opinion about what I just read and forgot what I read isn’t easy for me. So I will at least start with what I learned and took away from this article. I thought Ware’s five-point case for the advantages of visualization was significant because visualization helps us comprehend large amounts of data; allows us to perceive emergent properties we may not have anticipated; it can reveal problems within the data; facilitates our understanding of large and small-scale features; and it helps us form hypotheses. I think these are all important to the process of data gathering and solution finding.

Using information visualization is also a great way to tell a story. You are able to see trends in data and what happened to your subject over a given amount of time. This may work for you and give you a clear direction to head in or it may go against your original hypothesis and cause you to take a deeper look at the subject at hand.

I also thought it was very interesting about how color if used well can enhance your information visualition, but it must be used correctly. It needs to highlight the most important information and used wisely when introduced globally. Colors can have different meanings between different countries.

And my project research…

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Data visualisation of a social network
Felix Heinen
Project Description:
For his final year project in information design, Felix Heinen created an amazing set of visualizations of different aspects of a social network. Two big (200 x 90 cm – 80 x 36 inches) posters show the variety and attitudes of members from an internet community like MySpace.On the first poster you can see the functions used, as well as additional information, such as age, educational background, family status, gender and how often they are logged in. In a glimpse, a view into the key demographic data available for every member’s profile.The second poster gives you an overview of the geographic location of all members, based on a world map. The aim was to provide the management team with a visualization tool that would allow a better understanding of the community members, rather than a just a simple scan of their database. Felix has also developed a flash based interactive tool that allows users to navigate through all the collected data.


Critical Visualization Response

Six years later and Peter Hall’s insights on the topic of data visualization still holds relevance as data and information continue to explode in every platform around us. In his article, Critical Visualization, Hall outlines three different approaches of information graphics. The first being technological, which looks at effectiveness, the second approach is scientific, where he discusses reducing complexity, and the third view is art, which looks at aesthetics and style.

The technological, as Hall states, is an approach that places a great deal of emphasis on technique, integrity and efficiency. Hall then goes on to say that effectiveness is an unreliable test of visualization because it can become a vivid artifact. For the scientific approach, Hall says storytelling becomes the most important aspect because the data is usually very complex and sometimes constantly changing so it is necessary for research teams ask themselves what they want to show and how. One thing Hall notes about the scientific approach is that the quality of visual design is generally neglected because of the perception that making things attractive is too subjective. The art of visualization, the last approach that Hall discusses, is a creative process concerned with not only the finished product, but also the framing, gathering, connecting, and arraying of data. Hall deems this approach a critical practice.

Although there are different approaches to data visualization and representation, the common thread between them is their ability to tell a narrative. What interests Hall (and myself) is what kind of narrative is being told with the data. The way I understood this was to think about one data set and the different possible ways that data set could be represented. The story could be told in numerous ways, which I think is something that is both exciting because of the potential variations of visualizations, and frightening because of the issue of objectiveness in regards to data visualization. Can something ever really be represented objectively? Will we always be questioning and doubting the authenticity of data? Hall urges us in the last lines of the article to “always make maps; always question maps.” One question that remains in my mind is this: How do we, as designers and makers, attempt to represent data without our own bias view attached? Is that even possible or is it necessary for the narrative of the data?

One related project I found is called Charting Culture, developed by Mauro Martino, research manager of the Cognitive Visualization Lab in IBM’s Watson Group Charting Culture shows the geographical movements of over 120,000 individuals who were notable enough in their life-times that the dates and locations of their births and deaths were recorded.

Check it out.charting_culture3

Critical Visualization Response

This article outlines how information may be visualized and their varying roles. Hall contrasts historically significant examples that focus on technology, science and Art. Technology consists of bare canonized representation of data, while science engages in depicting correlation and become a too for future interactive studies. Artistic visualization casts a bias dialogue in their representation and aim to spur on action. Visualizations should take an enormous amount of thought. One must question how and whether it sways the viewers perception or delineates overly simplified trends. Nearly any set of data may be represented in a false manner and it seems that the everyday instances of visualization we stumble upon are extremely simplistic visuals to support an argument rather than teach. This is why Hall outlines examples of different techniques of visualization and how they are historically significant. This article argues that the artistry and technology of a visualization are inseparable and their impact must be thoroughly weighed.

I’ve been on a US Census binge lately and the accompanying visualizations vary in functionality. Some are plain black and white bar graphs (technological), others more interactive layered works that facilitate exploration. Not too many visualizations focus on motivating action since the site aims at mainly analysis. Below are two approaches to examining migration within the US. Both are interactive but their consumption of information is completely different. 1 is a very basic canon representation of the US map divided into counties. You can select the county and see where citizens moved and whether the state lost or gained population. The map may be overly specific and takes longer to consume than 2. 2 reduces a state’s migration into a radial spread around the state that is the origin. This representation allows the viewer to more easily compare flow. Therefore, number 2 uses more of a scientific approach though it generalized the information slightly and states with the smallest flow aren’t even labeled.



Reading Response

In the article Critical Visualization, Peter Hall talks about the importance of data visualization in modern life. With so much data available to us, visualization helps to organize and make sense of the information. Hall cites Colin Ware’s statement about the advantages of visualization: “. . . it helps us comprehend huge amounts of data; it allows us to perceive emergent properties we might not have anticipated; it can reveal problems with the data itself; if facilitates our understanding of large-scale and small scale features; and it helps us form hypotheses.” 

Hall believes that because of concerns with aesthetics of the data, it has become difficult to separate functional data visualization from artistic interpretation. He explains three views of visualization which are as technology, as science and as art. As technology it is aimed at new solutions, like the 1854 map showing the locations of deaths from the cholera outbreak. As science it aims to simplify and make the data easier to understand.  An example of a visual representation of data is work that uses data to create aesthetically pleasing images.  Visual Poetry 06 by Boris Müller uses text from a poem to visualize it. 2-210516-Main-476x357-2


A Seattle map that represents bicycle and walking paths within the city was created by artist and designer Brandon Martin-Anderson. The image is a map but that can be hard to notice at first.



Data visualization can be a combination of the three approaches and it can be hard to distinguish them but it should always aim at making information easier to view in some way.


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.


Critical Visualizations Reading Response

The Critical Visualization article by Peter Hall provides great insight on how the visualization of data can help to scaffold the interpretation of data so that its audience can efficiently interpret its message. Peter claims that the three prevailing views of visualization are as “a technology, as a science, and as an art” and that historically visualization typically falls into only one or two of these categories. Depending on the intended message of the visualization there is merit in trying to appeal to each of these views individually such as in the Cholera Map of London where the goal was to develop alternative theories of the disease’s origin. Some with less objective, problem-solving goals and can be interpreted as art. This was demonstrated by Casey Reas’ work in Signals that utilized the data about cell protein communication to produce digital arcs based on the magnitude of the signals being produce.

I feel that as the amount of data available is increasing, along with individuals’ access to this, that the lines between those three views will become less distinct. One example that bridges the gap between these views is a well-known visualization of Chicago neighborhoods that combines typography and geography into a map of the city. This map provides rapid identification of the various neighborhoods without sacrificing pleasing aesthetics and is available in a variety of different formats (and locations) that have a wide appeal.

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As Hall warns, it is important to remember to “be careful to determine which aspects of the visual coding belong in each category” as people from different backgrounds can interpret colors and symbols to have different meanings from what the designer, scientist, or artist thought to be a universal understanding. Thus we should take appropriate caution when visualizing the data collected so that these assumptions are not overlooked. The interpretations of these visualizations can also become more useful when the users have some control over the data being visualized and the way it is presented and the where the user can adjust the data being presented on both the x- and y-axis to create visualizations that are tailored to their interests.