Sep 5, 2009

Manual Lima's Information Visualization Manifesto & Discussion on the Visual Complexity Blog: Interaction Supporting Analysis is Key

Manual Lima, author of the Visual Complexity blog, set out to write about a set of considerations or requirements for people working in the field of Information Visualization, and outlined these goals in his Information Visualization Manifesto (8/30/0).  Lima's post spurred quite a discussion among his readers, and resulted in a subsequent post,  Observations on the Manifesto.  

My favorite section of the manifesto:

"Interactivity is Key"

"As defined by Ben Shneiderman, Stuart K. Card and Jock D. Mackinlay, “Information Visualization is the use of computer-supported, interactive, visual representations of abstract data to amplify cognition”. This well-known statement highlights how interactivity is an integral part of the field’s DNA.  Any Information Visualization project should not only facilitate understanding but also the analysis of the data, according to specific use cases and defined goals. By employing interactive techniques, users are able to properly investigate and reshape the layout in order to find appropriate answers to their questions. This capability becomes imperative as the degree of complexity of the portrayed system increases. Visualization should be recognized as a discovery tool."

Manual Lima also suggests that narrative is an important component, and quotes Patricia McDonald: "...the question of narrative seems to lie at the heart of this Manifesto; the need to pose a specific question of the data and to weave coherent themes and stories from it."

Also read:
Observations on the Manifesto 9/3/09

In this post, Manual Lima reflects on the discussion surrounding his 8/30 post.  Regarding his statement, "Interactivity is Key":

"This principle merits the reflection of us all. Jerome Cukier and David McCandless challenged the need for interactivity in Information Visualization. In a broader definition of Visualization I would certainly agree with this notion: Information can be successfully conveyed in either static or interactive mediums. However, we have to question what really sets us apart from other parallel fields such as Information Design or Information Graphics. I do believe one of the crucial benefits of Information Visualization is interactivity – which also explains why this area emerged from Computer Science and HCI. It’s this “computer-supported, interactive” visual representation of data that truly makes us different. And this unique offering “becomes imperative as the degree of complexity of the portrayed system increases”. The representation of complex networks is just an instance where interactivity should be mandatory."

Lima goes on to discuss the diversity of the field, as it is comprised of people from a variety of disciplines. However, he sees a difference between Information Visualization and Information Art.

"The fallacy of Information Visualization being a conveyor of “pretty pictures” is drastically threatening the field, by undermining its goals and expectations. “We have to fight that or risk the trivialization and marginalization of visualization as an analytic tool”, asserts Robert Kosara on a recent review of the manifesto."


Robert Kosara's Post:  Shaking the "Pretty Picture" Stigma  8/31/09

Kosara points out that visual analysis is a better term to use than visualization, among other things.

"The purpose of visualization is insight, not pictures"  Ben Shneiderman (1999)

No comments: