Reading Assignment 3: Why Visualization?

by Mike Gleicher on January 22, 2015

Due Date: 11:59pm, Wednesday, January 28th

Turn-in link: ‘Reading 3’ on Canvas

This reading is due before Thursday, January 29th so we can look at your initial postings before class. Before Thursday means Wednesday (or earlier). This is a fairly large reading assignment, so you might want to start early (in general, the early weeks are pretty reading intensive).

In this reading, we’ll explore the “why visualization” question a little bit deeper. Again, we’ll get 3 very different perspectives:

  1. Chapter 9 of Visual Thinking (the textbook) by Colin Ware. 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. Remember that you can access this book online if you don’t have it.
  2. Chapter 2 of Tufte’s Visual Explanations (pages 26-53). The perspective here is historical – what can happen when Visualizations work or fail. A scan of the chapter is here, and hopefully you remember how to access the protected course reader.
  3. The first 17 pages of the Introduction to “Information Visualization: Using Visualization to Think” by Card, Mackinlay, and Schneiderman. 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.

Here’s one more optional reading that gives yet another perspective:

  1. The paper “Casual Information Visualization: Depictions of Data in Everyday Life”. (authors version) (doi). Hard to imagine that there’s something that all the others missed, but, there is (actually, there’s a whole vein of ideas in terms of art/aesthetics).

Between these readings, the ones from last time (another 3), and the original Few article, you’ve gotten a lot of different perspectives of why one might want to create a visualization. Or, more interestingly, why one might care to invest the energy in creating a good visualization.

In terms of discussion, this is kind of an extension to the previous discussions – however, we’re going to have a new set of forums (same groupings of people) so it is easier for us to keep score.

As an experiment: I am not going to give you a specific question this time. For the discussion, just give your thoughts on the readings. (I actually did the same experiment with a similar reading assignment last year)

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