gaining insight by swimming in data

12Mar10

Although infographics are just yet discovered by ‘our wordy society’, a new dawn is already prevailing for handling information. Gary Flake explains the use of the zoomable technology used by Pivot. He shows that’s its possible to swim in a living information-graphic. You do this by zooming in and out not only from raw data, but each type of digital content. By stepping back you can reorganize the content and change the way you use the information. You can actually navigate the web (and your own web history) at a higher level of abstraction and gain insights you would not have discovered by looking at it page by page. In that way data is no longer a curse, by looking at many things to many things, you can – instead of being drowned – swim in the data and extract information and tease it up to knowledge.

People who have worked with iPhoto from Apple can know the experience of narrow-and-broader-zooming. If you have done your job of tagging your pictures with people and location data, you can simply take alternate views on your photostock. It’s still a lot of work though to tag your photo’s correctly and thoroughly. Technology is helping you by making it easier to do it (f.i. upload your photos with GPS data) and supports you with auto-fill options to do it correctly. But to make Pivot work the amount and accuracy of the meta-information is needed.

I am a great fan of visualizing data. It helps you layer complex information and makes it easier for your minds to get to grips with a contextual vision. But we have lost a lot of our skill in creating and working with visual information – especially in our western world we’ve trained our brains on letters and numbers for far too long to still be fluent users of visual language. The art of making a good infographic is still hard labour (and well paid). All that might change with the introduction of these tools. Don’t get me wrong i think this is good news, but i am also aware that with it we have a tool that’s far greater than our abilities. And it will take a whole new way of looking at content creation for the professionals currently doing that job for corporates, governance and publishing.

also: ted-talk Tim Berners-Lee

basics of infographics: vizualism.com

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