The video of Jer Thorp speaking about visualization at TEDxVancouver has been making the rounds among data visualization people. Jer demonstrates quite aptly what a lot of people in visualization strive to achieve: create a narrative structure that amplifies the cognitive efficacy of data, or in other words, helps human find meaning in data. That’s what “data in a human context” is all about.
I’d like to point you to two angles on this talk that at first glance seem only remotely related to visualization, yet deserve some recognition of their own:
The reference to HyperCard is perhaps one of the single most useful pieces of inspiration to creators of meaning out there. There has not been a product quite like it ever since it was expelled from the walled garden of Apple and yet this part of the history of modern communication technology is easily overlooked because it no longer matches people’s perception of how to use computers. No longer does the average user feel that she can tinker with a device to make it solve computational problems for which no app exists. Hypercards addressed a fundamental problem of how we can create a pathway to make knowledge accessible. Much of it came down to the way it incorporated explorability and reduced complexity into a framework where you could create your own tools without having to study programming first. Bereft of such an experience in the post-PC world (sic!) where will a new generation of users find the inspiration to be creators?
Meaning, not just in this talk but also in visualization in general, is created through finding connective patterns for pieces of information. The adhesive structure that links nodes of knowledge to each other is actually not just a byproduct of certain visualizations. It is the very structure by which knowledge is organized in our minds. Frames is a concept that you should familiarize yourself with, if you really mean to create content that is structured to amplify cognition. And I’m not saying that because I have a soft spot for connectionism.
(via just about everyone in my twitterstream)