Data Visualization: A Quick Look Back
Research calls for experiments, exploration, exchange. By bringing together a wide range of people with different interests, various disciplinary backgrounds, and for most, near complete inexperience with data visualization, the workshop on data visualization that took place over two days was tantamount to sailing on uncharted waters. And yet I sensed that during these two days we all learned a great deal, not the least in getting a critical view about data visualization.
We were fortunate to have Benjamin Bach (Edinburgh University) as a witty, passionate and foremost expert in the field (not to mention his ability to speak in half a dozen languages). He devoted the first session to a short, but compact discussion of many ways to visualize data, with their advantages and pitfalls, the many actors involved in developing tools, and finally the incredible possibilities — actually unlimited possibilities — at hand to turn data into visualizations.
The audience was introduced to fundamental principles of visualization, to the various objectives that visualization can serve and on ways to design visualizations. Benjamin delineated the foundations that one needs to know to get from data to visualizing data.
The second day started with an exciting workshop of data sketching that initially left most of us “speechless”. Then, little by little, Benjamin took us to task to actually think about our data and how we imagined how best to communicate the data visually.
Finally, during the third and final session, Benjamin Bach presented a carefully-selected array of tools for data visualization, most of them available on line and free. He also introduced The Vistorian, the network-oriented platform — actually it works in a browser — he has been developing to bridge the gap between networks, time, and space. At the end of the workshop, Benjamin received the newly printed t-shirt of the ENP-China project, which he gracefully put on right away.