Facilitating understanding visually
What the heck is that?
You might wonder why you’re finding yourself on this page and what is it that you can take away from this little excursion into the world of data visualization.
An easy-to-grasp, introductory talk is given by David McCandless. As one of the famous TED Talks, he talks about the “Beauty of Data Visualization“.
What is Data Visualisation?
Data visualization makes connections and realtions between certain sets of data visible and, thus, more comprehensible.
To put it in a nutshell, data visualization is “the representation and presentation of data to facilitate understanding” (Kirk 2016: 19). This takes into account all ways transforming data into visual imagery, animated or not.
Why do I need Data Visualisation?
As a researcher your jobs is to acquire data in order to find proof for your argument, refute assumptions or observe processes. In any of those cases you need to make your hard work accessible and understandable to a broader audience. The easiest way to do that successfully is to create an image, to visualize your data. Processing information visually takes less effort than to understand lists of numbers or find a pattern in large sets of data. Visualization makes your research efforts intellectually accessible to your audience/ reader and also distinguishes your work from other research projects in the field.
What value do I get out of it?
Visualization makes your research efforts intellectually accessible to your audience/ reader and also distinguishes your work from other research projects in the field.
Before commencing with visualizing your data, take a few minutes to clarify your aims by trying to answer the following questions.
- Where are you publishing your visualization? Why are you making this? E.g.: journal article, thesis defense, conference presentation, poster,…
- What kind of media are you planing to use for presenting your data? E.g.: poster, video-wall, on screen,…
- What do you need from the visualization? E.g.: general overview, detailed information, defend your thesis, present your project to possible investors or for being published in a journal,…
- What are you trying to achieve? E.g.: inform, entertain, persuade,…
- What is your target audience? E.g.: fellow researcher, non-specialists, the board, press, publisher,…
- What is my story behind the visualization? In general, people are going to listen to stories, if you tell them one, and tend to fall asleep being confronted with plain numbers.
- Are content and target audience congruent? Make sure that what you are presenting has a take-away-message for your audience. Don’t bore an educated and specialised audience with general information, but at the same time don’t overburden an audience that have no deeper knowledge of the topic.