The Bad

February 10, 2010

in Critiques,Student Posts

Trends and Technology Timeline 2010+: A roadmap for the exploration of current and future trends

This visualization denotes current trends as well as predictions for future trends, and displays them in a way that is analogous to a subway map. This text is included on the map:

“This map is a broad representation of some of the trends and technologies currently visible. Improvement works are carried out at weekends and travellers should check to see whether lines are still operable before commencing any journeys. Helpful suggestions concerning new routes and excursions are always welcome.”

This visualization encodes five dimensions of data in the following ways:

–       “time zones”– radial distance from the center of the map, hue

–       phenomena – text labels, position on category lines, connection?

–       category of phenomena – hue

–       type of phenomena – shape, glyphs

–       global risks – bulleted list, containment?

What Munzner might say:

First of all, this “roadmap” doesn’t even use the strongest visual channel(s): absolute x and y position. Then, it uses hue to distinguish different time zones (even though this is ordered data, and saturation would be more appropriate), AND to distinguish different categories. And there are 16 different colors corresponding to different categories, even though the max amount of colors used should be eight.

What Tufte might say:

What is meant by “time zones”? The common definition of this word is very different from the definition as relates to this visualization. Also, trends appear on category lines in a particular order. Is there any logic behind this order? Does it imply causality? Finally, the extremely dense text doesn’t make very judicious use of ink.

{ 1 comment }

hinrichs February 16, 2010 at 3:36 am

I’d like to add to this that there seem to be some intentional groupings of ideas by proximity which aren’t made explicit. I.e., where the tracks intersect, the nearby trends / events seem to be related, but this can’t be verified. I think the tangled look and difficulty of interpreting the graph serves 2 main purposes – to prevent the makers of the map from being held accountable for missed predictions (even though the map warns you not to take it too seriously,) and secondly, it’s meant to convey the idea that the future is hard to read as it is, and while they could do a good job of organizing things so that you can read their predictions in a well-ordered way, you would miss out on getting a feel for how hard it is to make sense out of all of the interleaving trends.

Honestly I don’t think this graphic really fails at its task, which I think is mainly to entertain and provoke. However, as a clear, accessible portrayal of well-organized ideas, I think it’s a off the mark, probably by design.

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