For everything that is right about this stunning blend of visualization techniques I cannot look past the glaring cock up of not labeling the axes properly.

Still, there is so much to learn from bringing together different approaches to visualization. In this video we have innovative mapping techniques1 that by themselves blur the boundary between photography (or cinematography in this case) and data visualization. We have layers of information that work in unison to convey an overarching theme. Quantitative information of accumulation over time is superimposed on the mapping visualization. We have a narrative structure provided by the voiceover that brings yet another stream of data to the piece.

The next step in the evolution of visualization as I see it would be to make the choices that seem artistically motivated and somewhat arbitrary in this video a matter of conscious translation from raw data into accessible representations of complex knowledge structures. We have yet to find a robust methodical solution to the question just how much information may be simultaneously conveyed through the visual and the acoustic channel. Furthermore we need to establish which kind of data should be directed where, when we are trying to create rich visualizations. As ever, we are faced with fighting complexity.

I find this video quite reminiscent of the kinds of solutions that augmented reality affords us with when trying to overlay information inputs. Referring back to the fine line between photography and data visualization, we will need to reassess our ideas about visualization when our tools start mimicking reality in the way they present us data about it2.


  1. The author of the original rendering of the globe that went into the video did various map experiments to illustrate the Anthropocene, showing several features of our global civilization: cities, built environment, transmission lines, pipelines, main paved and unpaved roads and railways. http://vimeo.com/27891029 ↩︎

  2. To make no mention of how to incorporate narrative structures as meaningful elements into visualizations. That topic is even more imminent and warrants some in depth consideration. Hopefully I’ll get around to it soon. ↩︎

  1. jochmann posted this
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