Inviting Inquiry and Exploration Through Data Visualization
Science, in the popular imagination, is about finding answers to questions. Scientists make discoveries, develop theories, and deliver those discoveries and theories to neutral audiences with an interest in the truth as backed up by science. Well-designed data visualization (dataviz), by contrast, can invite more questions than it answers. It has the particular quality of allowing its viewers, users and makers the ability to generate new kinds of questions, and to put them in a better place to answer those questions. By the creation of objects to think with, dataviz opens up landscapes of possibility for discussion and inquiry that can help scientists to both do their work and better communicate their work to broader audiences.
The focus of dataviz can be understood to exist along a spectrum of abstraction, from facts at the most concrete end, to wisdom, knowledge, and even vision as the most aspirational place for dataviz to work. Each of these kinds of work requires a different approach. Through our client-facing and research practice at Stamen, we engage in multiple kinds of dataviz approaches across this spectrum. Much of this work is done for and with scientists across a broad range of fields, from metagenomics to an atlas of human emotions.
This talk will illustrate and examine examples from multiple points along the rich and varied possibility space that opens up when science and dataviz work together.
When it comes to communication and visual interfaces, what you lose in detail, you can gain in power. This can be a difficult notion for the scientific mind to navigate. Well-designed dataviz can help find ways for scientists to navigate the multiple competing interests and priorities inherent in both communication to non-scientists and exploratory data-rich interfaces.