Giorgia Lupi nos cuenta, porque dibuja

Les comparto esta super entervista que la revista Green futures le hace a Giorgia Lupi quien refelxiona sobre el dibujo en la visulización de la información.


Why I draw: Giorgia Lupi on the art of visual understanding

17th November, 2014 by Giorgia Lupi

Giorgia Lupi, information designer and co-founder of Accurat, explains how drawing can lead to new ways of seeing and understanding.

Giorgia Lupi

Why do you draw?
I draw to freely explore possibilities. I draw to visually understand what I am thinking. I draw to evaluate my ideas and intuitions by seeing them coming to life on paper. I draw to help my mind think without limitations, without boundaries.

Drawing plays an important role in the production and communication of knowledge, and in the genesis of new ideas. It illustrates how instinctively our perception is directed towards finding meaning in things, recognising things. The act of drawing, and the very fact we choose to stop and draw, demands focus and attention. I use drawing as my primary expression, as a sort of functional tool for capturing and exploring thoughts.

For me, drawing is also an obsession: I always carry pens, pencils and paper in any situation. I cannot think about a project without a pen and some paper. Drawing is my way to understand that I had an idea in the first place. Besides, I take an incredible pleasure in tracing lines on paper and seeing abstract shapes come alive.

When does drawing become design?
I see design as a way to translate a structural concept for a specific audience, through a specific medium. It is also the process of visual planning and organising the choices made along the way of a project, given the specific boundaries of it. Drawing becomes design when you start tracing lines that help you rationalise what you think, and envision a possible solution. When it comes to designing data visualisations, I see three phases. One is understanding the macro categories to start sketching the first visual possibilities to organise the data, its ‘architecture’. Then I focus on the singular elements, the entry points, to figure out which shapes, colours and features we might invent to represent the sub-categories. Finally, we structure what I’d expect to eventually have in Illustrator software, but on paper. Isn’t drawing already ‘design’ in these phases? I think so.

What impact would you most like to have through your drawings?
I don’t draw to have an impact, I draw for myself. My drawings are never final pieces. I think this is something very personal. The most important impact I want my drawings to have is to lead me towards new, unexpected and beautiful visual design solutions, to create powerful and unusual visual compositions with data. In fact, I really want our work to be accurate, but beautiful and disruptive to a certain extent.

Do you see yourself as part of a data visualisation movement?
What drives me is the search for multiple ways to create unexpected, beautiful things in a way that can accurately represent complex systems of information. More generally, I think there are many reasons for the popularity of data visualisations. People are exposed to an increasing stream of content from many sources; bright and catchy images such as infographics fit perfectly into this media diet, playing with hierarchies to provide multiple levels of possible readings within a single piece. Of course, the proliferation of a number of easy-to-use and free tools has made the creation of infographics available to a large segment of the population, even non-experts.

What does it mean to be a designer?
To be a designer you have to find new ways to attract attention through new languages, products and solutions that – besides being functional and appropriate – must be magnetic and surprising. There are no universal answers to ‘how’ one does that. I think that I would simply say that it’s important not to leave any possibilities unexplored; and that it’s important to pursue logical solutions while freely letting the imagination flow.

Sometimes a great idea can come unexpectedly. Free explorations in design can lead to insights and epiphanies that cannot be always anticipated with a rational design approach. What I always do when I start every kind of project is allow myself to have time to get inspired by the world around me, while having the ‘brief’ in mind. I spend a great amount of time looking for visual inspiration, which I carefully organise on Pinterest.

What advice would you give to someone who can’t draw?
There is a lot of freedom in drawing; sometimes this freedom can scare and paralyse you. Complete freedom is never very good for coming up with truly disruptive ideas.

Even in my personal project I set constraints. What I would suggest is to start with a topic you want to explore (or redraw), and some rules for the final output, and then just start. And do it again. And do it again.

Draw for yourself, not for anybody else. And approach drawing less scientifically, more naively.

I draw without any prejudice: letting my hand go freely, without asking if it makes sense for the project in that very moment. Then I look at what I’ve drawn and decide whether to work on it, engaging this loop between thoughts, paper and sight.

Giorgia Lupi is co-founder and Design Director at Accurat, an information design company based in Milan and New York.

Image credit: Giorgia Lupi



Post-it urbanista. “El mapa de cualquier ciudad”

Muchas veces he pensado en las implicaciones que ha traído la tecnología del post-it no sólo para el diseño o la innovación, sino para cualquier descubrimiento dentro de cualquier disciplina y me mandaron esta liga del blog de 99%invisible.

La historia comienza con un boceto que hace Chaz Hutton en un post it, sobre la experiencia de vivir en la ciudad;  El “bosquejo ficticio” que en realidad no es un mapa, pero toma elementos dispuestos a manera  croquis que lo hace parecer lugar, poco a poco se vuelve viral, ya que varias personas trataron de identificarlo con un lugar real y crean sus propios bosquejos de lo que significa para ellos vivir en la ciudad. Esto da la idea a Chaz de hacer un bosquejo general de cada ciudad y analizar lo que la gente representa y que nos puede decir el imaginario colectivo y lo que puede representar para entender la ciudad.


Les dejo la liga y disfruten.

El proyecto me recuerda al de l artista Becky Cooper en su libro “Mapping Manhatan. A Love Story in maps”en el que Becky distribuye en la ciudad de NY una serie de volantes para que los participantes cuenten su historia y se encuentra con que muchas veces estas representaciones nos dicen mas sobre las personas que crean los mapas que sobre el propio lugar.




Historia visual del decrecimiento de la guerra y la violencia.


Les dejo esta liga que los dejará pensando en donde Max Rosen compara la “violencia interpersonal” con el régimen político de cada

Después analiza a mayor profundidad en esta otra liga el indice de homicidios y nos presenta estadísticas sobre el indice de violencia a largo plazo en Europa. En particular se enfoca en los homicidios es decir la muerte ilícita que se impone deliberadamente en una persona a otra, descartando las muertes de civiles y militares durante las guerras y genocidios, basándose en varios artículos científicos, en particular el de Eisner (2003) – Long-Term Historical Trends in Violent Crime. In Crime and Justice, 30, 83–142.


Rosen concluye que los homicidios interpersonales han bajado en el periodo de el medioevo hasta el presente. Aunque me gustaría ver un acercamiento al contexto particular de México, ya que de acuerdo a la primera liga baja la violencia si los países son más democráticos lo que me lleva a pensar si el aumento en el indice de violencia puede ser un argumento para demostrar que nuestro gobierno actual se vuelve menos democrático. (Es un buen proyecto atractivo de Diseño de Información).

Acá el artículo de Eisner que me parece muy interesante.


Para ser genio, el “lugar” importa

Un ponente magistral de la conferencia de EPIC 2016 en Minneapolis fue Eric Weiner quien nos vino a platicar sobre su libro “The Geography of Genius”. Eric se dio cuenta que los genios aparecen por grupos en ciertos lugares y nos comunica los principales hallazgos para fomentar la capacidad de cultivar genios. Sería interesante integrar los hallazgos de Weiner en el contexto académicos y cultivar alumnos genio.

Les dejo un video de notas de su libro y de paso, les comparto mis notas de EPIC2016 para que lo puedan cotejar.

Y acá mis notas


La definición de Experiencia de Uso

Summary: “User experience” encompasses all aspects of the end-user’s interaction with the company, its services, and its products.


The first requirement for an exemplary user experience is to meet the exact needs of the customer, without fuss or bother. Next comes simplicity and elegance that produce products that are a joy to own, a joy to use. True user experience goes far beyond giving customers what they say they want, or providing checklist features. In order to achieve high-quality user experience in a company’s offerings there must be a seamless merging of the services of multiple disciplines, including engineering, marketing, graphical and industrial design, and interface design.

It’s important to distinguish the total user experience from the user interface (UI), even though the UI is obviously an extremely important part of the design. As an example, consider a website with movie reviews. Even if the UI for finding a film is perfect, the UX will be poor for a user who wants information about a small independent release if the underlying database only contains movies from the major studios.

We should also distinguish UX and usability: According to the definition of usability, it is a quality attribute of the UI, covering whether the system is easy to learn, efficient to use, pleasant, and so forth. Again, this is very important, and again total UX is an even broader concept.

For more depth: Full-day UX Basic Training course
See also: UX Certification


Watch Don Norman explain the origin of the term “UX” and what he thinks about the way some people use it these days (2 min. video):

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Que es un Pecha Kucha

De: SocialMediaycontenidos

En febrero de 2003, dos arquitectos de Tokio pusieron en práctica una brillante idea que se ha ido extendiendo por nuestro pequeño e interconectado mundo. Una buena idea que merece la pena conocer… y probar.

Pecha Kucha: simple y brillante…

Las ideas más simples hacen las mejores soluciones. Mark Dytham (@markdytham) y Astrid Klein, arquitectos, lo tenían muy claro cuando se enfrentaron a un singular dilema en la promoción de su proyecto de networking:

¿Cómo reunirían a la mayor cantidad posible de jóvenes diseñadores en un espacio experimental, de modo que todos pudieran presentar su trabajo con éxito?

La solución propuesta por Astrid y Mark fue tan sencilla como genial. Decidieron establecer una única norma que los asistentes tenían que respetar a rajatabla:

La presentación debía constar de 20 diapositivas, y el ponente tenía que dedicar exactamente 20 segundos a cada una.

¡Imposible aburrirse! 6 minutos y 40 segundos por presentación.

No se trataba de una mera limitación de tiempo, pues eso ya estaba inventado (¡y sabemos que no funciona!). La verdadera clave estaba en el “20×20″, el método formal que de alguna forma “garantizaba” al ponente y a su público una exposición dinámica y sistemática de todas las ideas relevantes que merecía la pena compartir.

…Y por supuesto, la idea tuvo un éxito rotundo.

La buena acogida del formato pronto llevó a la creación de las PechaKucha Nights, que ya se celebran en más de 700 ciudades de todo el mundo: PechaKucha Nights en el mundo.

El origen del término

Como ya habrás imaginado, el término viene del japonés: ペチャクチャ.

Pecha Kucha (que podemos ver escrito junto o separado), es una onomatopeya japonesa que se usa para referirse al sonido de una charla casual.

En apariencia, la fonética de Pecha-Kucha no es complicada para los hispanohablantes, pero dicen los entendidos que en realidad se pronuncia así: pet-shah coot-shah.

¿Cómo se hace? En 5 pasos

La norma es clara:

¡20 diapositivas de 20 segundos!

En mi caso, para convertir una presentación “convencional” en una Pecha Kucha, utilizo el siguiente sistema en 5 pasos:

  1. Definir la estructura básica: divido la materia en los apartados o capítulos habituales, pero asegurándome de que es un múltiplo de 20, por ejemplo 5.
  2. Dividir los apartados: divido 20 entre la cantidad de apartados que tengo, en este caso, 20/5=4.
  3. Desarrollar los conceptos: a continuación decido cuáles son los (en este caso 4) conceptos esenciales de cada apartado y a cada uno le asigno una diapositiva. Ya tengo 20 diapositivas, cada una con un concepto, dentro de un esquema lógico.
  4. Probar: por último, ¡a ensayar! Pruebo a desarrollar cada concepto en 20 segundos. Para los más complejos, hago un esfuerzo de síntesis y para los más simples, intento añadir algún “guiño” que me ayude a amenizar.
  5. Control de calidad: Como la presentación dura menos de 7 minutos, no es difícil encontrar un “voluntario” que haga de conejillo de indias y me escuche. A continuación le pido que haga un poco de crítica constructiva para ayudarme a “pulir” mi trabajo.

¿Por qué Pecha Kucha? ¡Guerra al mal ponente!

Las personas que han probado el formato 20×20, como también es conocido el Pecha Kucha, suelen comentar cosas como estas (que suscribo plenamente):

“Al contrario de lo que pueda parecer, te da más seguridad en tu exposición, porque no tienes tiempo de divagar ni de ponerte nervioso. Te centras en el formato y lo demás pasa a un segundo plano.”

“Preparando una presentación en formato PechaKucha se aprende, porque al poner en valor lo esencial, descartando lo superfluo, terminas por ver las cosas de otra manera.”

Organizar un evento ajustado a la Regla PechaKucha tiene grandes ventajas. Para enumerarlas todas, veamos cómo inciden sobre cada tipo de ponente:

El ponente perezoso

¿Alguna vez has invitado a alguien a dar una charla y te has dado cuenta de que no se la ha preparado y te está dejando en evidencia? A mí me ha pasado, y más de una vez. ¡Tierra, trágame! El ponente perezoso a veces se derrumba, pero en ocasiones saca pecho y lleva la improvisación a un terreno donde las cosas solo pueden… empeorar.

Por fin tenemos una forma de prevenir estas situaciones:

No puedes improvisar una presentación que no has preparado si es “obligatorio” hacerla en formato PechaKucha.

El ponente newbie

El formato PechaKucha es un punto de apoyo que ayuda a superar la prueba sin dificultad a los ponentes “con pocas tablas”, o a los que tienen problemas para hablar en público. Es ideal para los más jóvenes, sobre todo en espacios multitudinarios donde el miedo escénico puede llegar a resultar abrumador.

El ponente ladrillo

Gracias al formato de presentación PechaKucha, los ponentes “pesados” que aburren a la audiencia se convierten por arte de magia en dinámicos y chispeantes monologuistas.

Es lógico. No tienen problema para hablar en público, al contrario, les encanta, pero no ponen límites al circunloquio, ni a la disgresión, ni al reloj. La regla del 20×20 saca lo mejor de ellos, y les impide caer en sus vicios.

El ponente despistado

Hay ponentes que pueden aportar mucho valor, pero que fallan en su técnica de transmisión de conocimiento, porque no son buenos oradores, se despistan, se enredan, y terminan dejándose en el tintero lo mejor de su exposición. PechaKucha les ayuda a centrarse en lo esencial y, sobre todo, a exponerlo “cuando toca”.

El ponente monocorde

Hay ponentes que parece que no están ahí. Su espíritu ha salido de su cuerpo, y ante la audiencia han dejado una cáscara vacía que recita del tirón un discurso átono, plano, mecánico… un rollo, vamos.

El formato 20×20 obliga a realizar 20 saltos, 20 piruetas, que dan ritmo y énfasis a la presentación aunque el ponente se esfuerce por hacer todo lo contrario (bueno, hasta cierto punto al menos).

El EGOponente

Ya lo conoces, ¿verdad? Seguro que hasta podrías ponerle nombre…

Él, o ella, es una estrella, el plato principal, la luz que ilumina el evento. Es elocuente, ingenioso, seductor, domina la situación. En algunos casos muy infrecuentes, en el paroxismo de la virtud, el EGOponente incluso llega a compartir algún conocimiento útil sobre algún tema que domina realmente.

¿No es genial tener un EGOponente en un evento? No siempre.

El problema del Rock Star es que convierte a los demás en teloneros.

El EGOponente hace sentirse pequeños al resto de ponentes y polariza la sesión. Esto puede no ser un problema en algunos casos, pero generalmente no es lo que buscan los organizadores.

El formato PechaKucha es un “igualador” eficaz, que obliga a este tipo de ponentes a centrarse en comunicar y no en brillar.

¿Moda “speed” en el networking?

El mundo gira cada vez más deprisa, y nos estamos haciendo muy exigentes. Los formatos de evento orientados a conseguir la máxima eficiencia y el mejor “ambiente” triunfan, y se extienden como la pólvora. Ahí van un par de ejemplos:

Entrepreneur Speed-Dating: es como el Speed-Dating de parejas, ¡pero no para ligar! sino para hacer negocios y conocer gente de tu sector.

Speed-Mentoring: solo conozco un caso de este formato, y he tenido el honor de ser parte de él recientemente (“No More Suits” en Madrid; también se celebra en otras ciudades). Es similar al Entrepreneur Speed-Dating, pero orientado al asesoramiento de emprendedores.


Estoy seguro de que el formato de presentación 20×20, tal cual, o con las variantes que se puedan imaginar, se irá imponiendo también como una forma de transmitir conocimiento en un mundo que nos obliga a ser cada vez más eficientes, amenos, y hasta divertidos.

¿Te animas a emplear el formato PechaKucha en tu próxima presentación? Si lo haces, explica antes a tu audiencia en qué consiste. Si no lo conocen, ¡seguro que ya solo por eso te anotas un tanto!

Gracias por leer hasta aquí. Nos vemos en la Red :)

Historias implicitas en la visualización de datos

Implied Stories (and Data Vis)


At the excellent Tapestry Conference in February in Annapolis, Emma Coats (@lawnrocket) spoke about storytelling, the theme of the conference. Her talk was based on her internet-famous 22 Rules of Storytelling developed while she was at Pixar.

Lacking the video of her talk ([ETA: here it is!]), I cracked open the ebook based on her principles by Stephan Bugaj, Pixar’s 22 Rules of Story (That Aren’t Really Pixar’s) (— which, incidentally, Emma says was written without her permission and none of her involvement. Caveat Lector).

Pixar Rule 4:

Once upon a time there was a ______. Every day, ________. One day ________. Because of that, _______. Because of that, _______. Until finally ________.

Bugaj points out this is a summary of a basic plotting structure, the “story spine,” suggested in many books on writing fiction: setup, change through conflict, resolution. The details make it a good story, of course (character, context, conflict…).

Emma talked about confounding the expectations of an audience: The ghost of what they expected should remain at the end, but your story arc should win (and convincingly). Related was an important point: the implied story line. You suggest a shape to what will or might happen (or has happened), and the audience fills it in. Her pithy example was Hemingway’s “shortest story every told”, a 6-worder:

“For sale: baby shoes, never worn.”

There are lots of ways the story here can be filled in, all of them sad. The reader brings the detail and does most of the work, but the author set it up very well to allow this.

Another Short Story

I’d like to offer another example, a very short story deconstructed in a series of lectures by sociologist Harvey Sacks (Lectures on Conversation) — which coincidentally also features a baby:

“The baby cried. The mommy picked it up.”

Maybe it’s not as GOOD a story as Hemingway’s, but Sacks argues it’s a story, based on having a recognisable beginning and end, the way stories do. There’s a dramatic moment, and a resolution. And while you may think we can read less into the plot than into Hemingway’s, Sacks spends 2 lectures (plus book appendices) on this story and how we understand it the way we do.

Ok, let’s accept it’s a story. Secondly, we infer that the baby and mommy may be related: it’s the baby’s mommy. “Characters appear on cue” in stories, he says; the Mommy is not a surprise in the normal setting conjured in our head; it doesn’t feel deus ex machina, like cheating.

Notice the story didn’t say “his mommy” or “her mommy” or “the baby’s mommy.” Juxtaposition of category terms often used in family contexts helps us infer this, Sacks argues. It’s clearly possible the baby was abandoned outside a supermarket and someone else’s mother picked it up to comfort it, as I hope one would! It’s not the simplest reading, though. Notice that we also assume they are humans, not apes or cats. Our human context draws that story, an Occam’s Razor kind of principle to reading.

Thirdly, Sacks notes we read the story as having cause and effect. Again, this is related to the juxtaposition and assumptions of normal family roles. That’s partly the expected story spine at work, too: conflict, resolution! Cause, effect, NOT just correlation.

Fourthly: the action in this story is believable, interpretable, unlike “colorless green ideas sleep furiously.” (That’s an old linguistics chestnut.) Babies cry; babies who cry should probably be picked up. Sacks notes that a mother can say plausibly, “You may be 40 years old but you’re still my baby.” In that case we don’t expect the crying 40-year old to be picked up, even if he’s “acting like a baby.” We fill in the blanks in this story in the most consistent way possible for the details we’ve been given, which means a lot of assumptions based on what we know and expect about social and human behavior.


A thing I didn’t tell you right away is that this story is a story by a 2 year old, that Sacks got from a book called Children Tell Stories. Sacks spends a certain amount of words on why this is a story because it comes from a child: the drama is a child’s, the resolution is a child’s happy ending. Sacks suggests that children, as speakers, might start a story with a dramatic moment, as a method of getting the floor. He says the dramatic problem here is a valid child’s talk opener, like “Hey, did you notice your computer is smoking?” would be for a stranger addressing you in a coffee shop while you’re getting a napkin. The ending is a valid ending, because for a child being picked up is a resolution. For this story to have a tidy ending, we infer that being picked up results in a non-crying child, or at least a happy child. But the actual non-crying denouement is implied here because of Mommy doing something expected.

The child’s story is arguably less sophisticated than Hemingway’s story, but notice that it’s more of a classic, plotted story in that 2 events occur, the crisis and the resolution. I hope I’ve convinced you that’s it’s still quite sophisticated in terms of the amount we bring to it when we read it, and how it successfully carries us along despite being terse. Hemingway’s is a suggestion of events behind a public for-sale ad, and all the action and characters and emotion occur in your head.

Story, Discourse, Visuals

What does this have to do with data visualization? Emma Coats wasn’t quite sure how to relate her story telling principles to vis design, but left it to us as adult vis creators to make that connection. I’m going to spell out some of what I take from the Pixar and Sacks points, as well as a little more storytelling thinking.

First one useful distinction in terms from Dino Felluga’s General Introduction to Narratology:

“Story” refers to the actual chronology of events in a narrative; discourse refers to the manipulation of that story in the presentation of the narrative. […] Story refers, in most cases, only to what has to be reconstructed from a narrative; the chronological sequence of events as they actually occurred in the time-space … universe of the narrative being read.

(This isn’t necessarily the way a linguist would define discourse, but it’ll do for now.) Discourse encompasses all the similes, metaphors, style devices used to convey the story, and in a film, all the cutting, blocking, music, etc. The story is what is conveyed through these devices when the discourse has succeeded. (So, for Felluga, telling “non-linear” stories is an attribute of the discourse, not the story itself.)

Hemingway’s short story’s discourse structure is very different from a two-year old’s discourse structure. The artistry lies in the discourse choices as well as in the stories they picked to tell.

Felluga illustrates how stories can be told in a visual discourse form with a Dürer woodcut:

(Woodcut to Wie der Würffel auff ist Kumen (Nuremberg: Max Ayrer, 1489). Reprinted in and courtesy of The Complete Woodcuts of Albrecht Dürer, ed. Willi Kurth (New York: Dover, 1963)

The story goes something like this: 1) The first “frame” of the sequence is the right-hand half of the image, in which a travelling knight is stopped by the devil, who holds up a die to tempt the knight to gamble; 2) the second “frame” is the bottom-left-hand corner of the image, where a quarrel breaks out at the gambling table; 3) the third “frame” is the top-left-hand corner of the image, where the knight is punished by death on the wheel. By having the entire sequence in a single two-dimensional space, the image comments on the fact that narrative, unlike life, is never a gamble but always stacks the deck towards some fulfilling structural closure. (A similar statement is made in the Star Trek episode I analyze under Lesson Plans.) [Note from Lynn: Love this guy.]

George Kampis took out these lessons from this example, for his own introductory course:

  • Narratives can be visual
  • Time is Space here
  • Actions and events are consequences (causation), not just occurring in a sequence.
  • Narrative is therefore offering “explanation” — why did things happen?
  • But order has been imposed.

I would not argue that the woodcut is easy to read, at least for most of us. Reading this story requires background in themes and socio-cultural contexts that a lot of modern viewers don’t have anymore. It’s not as simple as “the baby cried” or even the Hemingway “for-sale” discourse format.

Causation in Vis

We look for cause and effect in sequences of events, which is why I suspect there’s so much confusion over correlation and causation in data reporting. Charlotte Linde, in Life Stories, talks about this as “narrative presupposition.” She offers us the following two examples, which we read differently:

1. I got flustered and I backed the car into a tree. 2. I backed the car into a tree and I got flustered.

Linde toys with the idea that this is related to cognition, but falls back to suggesting it’s a fact about English (and possibly related languages’) story telling discourse and morphology. Regardless, it is a “bias” of interpretation we bring to bear on how we interpret sparse details juxtaposed. If a data reporter chooses details that juxtapose the rise of one thing with the rise (or fall) of another, the average reader will assume causation is implied by the reporter.What’s an example of a simple causation story in data vis? A timeseries of measures might be a good example. But without added context, it’s often just “X, then Y”. Filling in some explanatory context on timelines has become standard, at least in journalism. The labels here help us contextualize the data, and arguably to infer some causation:

(Image by Ritchie King in a Quartz article.)

Here the designer has imposed order by suggesting causation or at least relevant correlations behind the measures shown over time and the labeling of events. Some of the labels may be just “informational,” like the recent presidencies. For readers who know about the Clinton era economy vs. Reagan and Bush economies, the annotations carry more meaning. Regardless, by choosing to annotate in this way, the reporter suggests relationships in the minds of the reader, very deliberately. Less clearly related events also happened on those labelled time periods — births, deaths, scientific discoveries — and yet their relevance wouldn’t be so “obvious” and so easy to glance over as reasonable. Economy and war go together like babies and mommies.

Because readers assume the author has juxtaposed items on purpose, suggesting odd relationships in your discourse automatically evokes weird stories in your reader’s heads. These might be entertaining from an artistic perspective, of course…

(A super example from this paper on fallacy summarized on Steve’s Politics Blog.

It’s a little unlikely that lemon imports over time have a direct causal relation to accident rate, although we immediately want to figure out how they could!

Artistic &/or Journalistic

Is journalism better served by 2-year old storytelling with simple discourse forms (“X, then Y”)? Maybe, for some purposes. Even so, there are a lot of unwritten implications behind every chart, from what’s reported to how it’s reported. It’s easy to classify some work as simple propoganda — see Media Matters History of Dishonest Fox Charts for a lot of examples of apparent intentional misleading by implication.

Periscopic’s Stolen Lives gun deaths visualization was criticized by some for being un-journalistic, and yet, it makes its implications quite explicit and well-marked in the discourse (gray lines). The visualization walks the viewer through the interpretation with a slow intro, to show exactly where the artistic license begins to deviate from the data source.

(Visual from Periscopic’s work.)

This work may be be more like Hemingway’s for-sale story than a 2-year old’s story, although in fact it leaves less to the imagination while it veers further from traditional journalism as it does so. Yet this is still data visualization taking an artistic narrative risk, for the sake of activism.

Wrapping Up (So I Can Watch TV)

Even very simple stories, whatever the discourse form, rely on the reader filling in a lot of invisible holes. Some of the interpretation we do is so “obvious” that only sociologists or cognitive scientists can make explicit the jumps we don’t notice we’re wired to make. Choice of structure, of juxtaposition, of annotation, of what’s implied versus made explicit: these are discourse maneuvers that can clarify, mislead, open up possibilities, or even evoke emotion in surprising ways.

A willingness to borrow insights from other disciplines’ thinking about these subjects was one of the reasons I liked Tapestry’s programming. Emma Coats made me get out some old books, and writing this up helped tune my thinking a little bit. Good conference, and hopefully a thought-provoking post for a few readers.

Incidentally, some recent related articles: Periscopic’s A Framework for Talking About Data Narration and Jen Christiansen’s article “Don’t Just Visualize Data — Visceralize It.” [ETA: Also, a followup to this post by Robert Kosara at eagereyes.]