Visualization as an artform

I think there are a lot of takeaways from the video “Journalism in the Age of Data.” The biggest I found was that data visualization often allows users to find new trends and connections in both complicated and simple data because they are using their visual sense in a new and different way. I definitely found resonance in this statement because often it is hard to find meaning in numbers. Even those who understand the numbers and know they are powerful struggle getting that across. It seems that visualization allows the data to tell its story. Something I almost missed in the video was text on a slide in the background of one scene, “Visuals are cognitively efficient.” I think this is definitely the best summary of the the data visualization field. Looking at raw data takes a lot of human processing power, but when it is boiled down into a visualization it requires a lesser amount of processing. I think this also speaks to another point of the video in that visualizations successfulness is measured in two ways, their aesthetics and their ease of understanding or using the above terminology, their cognitive efficiency. The key to these two seems to be found in both pulling in the user/audience and engaging them.

This all being said, it is also clear that making this happen effectively is an artform in itself. Making the visualization aesthetically appealing, easy to understand, and narratively rich is the task, but giving equal execution to each is the challenge and where the artform is created. All of the designers in the video seemed to stress these three points and also that the current multimedia landscape is allowing the three to marry better, most notably through motion graphics rather than static visualizations. It will be interesting to watch and see where this industry goes and how data visualizations will be used in news stories and elsewhere around the web to effectively tell the story and create open understanding.

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