Assignment 4: Critique something

February 4, 2010

in Assignments

(Part 1 due by 7am, Thursday, Feb 11th – we’ll discuss the work in class)

(Part 2 due by 7am, Tuesday, Feb 16th – we’ll discuss the work in class)

In this assignment, your task is to look at a few visualizations and critique them, based on the things we’ve learned so far in class.

You will do this assignment with a partner (assigned in class, on Feb 4). If you were not assigned a partner on Feb 4, contact the instructor.

What to do:

Each person should find a visualization they think is good, and a visualization they think is bad. (each person does this, so each pair has 4 visualizations to look at – yes, you are supposed to find something good and something bad). Pick visualizations that are easily available (either on the web, or if it’s a picture, scan it).For the purposes of this exercise, static visualizations (images) are best.

Part 1 (the solo part): Each person should post their two visualizations, and their brief critique. Each person should also provide a brief critique of their partner’s selections as a comment. (so every person makes 2 postings for this part, and comments on 2 postings – with a catch described below). Try to consider as many of the issues that we have raised in class as possible – in particular, things like “does this visualization achieve its goal” (which requires you to articulate what its goal is) or “is it clear” or “does it make the task its designed to support easy” (again, which means you need to articulate its task).

If you want some ideas on how to do a critique, check out the homework assignment at Harvard. I don’t expect something as complete as the example at Berkeley, nor do I need you to explicitly consider the questions that Prof. Pfister lists in the Harvard assignment (but those are good things to consider).

Part 2 (the team part): Each pair (do this working together!): pick one of the good and one of the bad visualizations. For each one:

  • try to define the data, the mappings, and the encodings that the visualization uses. Think over where these choices came from – are they good choices (informed by perception or …) or just doing the obvious, or following a convention, or …
  • think up a few different mappings and encodings of the data (each will lead to a visualization). create rough sketches of what they might look like (either on the computer, or pencil and paper). if you do things on paper, try to scan it – or at least bring it to class. The goal here is really to consider the space of mappings and encodings to get an intuition for the range of what’s possible.
  • compare your mappings to the original – you might make things worse, but try to explain why.

Write up each analysis / redesign as a seperate posting. (note: this is seperate from the critique in part 1).

This assignment will undoubtedly stress the WordPress infrastructure we’re using for the class.

For this assignment:

  • Your visualizations and initial critiques must be created as postings to the “Student Posts” category (and maybe a subcategory, but we haven’t worked out that detail yet). Be sure to make that posting before 7am on the 11th. Please put a link to the visualization (or better: a small picture and a link) in the posting.
  • Your second critique cannot be done until your partner does #1 (and we “approve it” so it appears) – since you will add it as a comment to the other’s post. So, it should be done as soon as possible, but certainly no later than Tuesday, 2/16.
  • Your analyses should be created as postings (again, preferably with links to the original visualization) in the “Student Posts” category, before 7am, on Tuesday 2/16.

The goal here is to gain some practice with thinking critically about visualizations, and to think about what can be possible in creating mappings and encodings. After we learn more about perception, we’ll (hopefully) be able to have more “scientific” ways to choose among possible encodings.

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