I really liked Manovich’s overview of ‘big social data’, and was glad to have read it first of his three readings for the week, to use as a guide. In particular, I was fascinated by two of his paradigms—between ‘surface’ and ‘deep’ data and, in context of information visualization, between description and prediction in explaining what information visualization is (and/or is supposed to do).
What does data visualization do? Is it just descriptive (and if so, how does including a description that is visual improve our comprehension of the thing in question, as compared to or in addition to a description that is purely textual?)? Or predictive, a counterpart to inferential statistics? I’ve always put things into pictures to understand them, and I am crazy about Scott McCloud’s high recommendable book on comics [Understanding Comics], which shows (in comic form) how pictures and text can go together to explain or evoke things like space and time better than just pictures or text alone. So I’m a big fan of this new infographics/data visualization trend.
But I wanted to discuss Manovich’s discussion of sampling and behavior data, though class starts in 5 minutes. To be continued..
So, I think data visualization can help us interpret theories we have about things too. For example. I created Google Ngram charts of “ideas” and people featured in two of my other classes.
For American Studies I searched Margaret Fuller and Henry Thoreau.
I wanted to see when Thoreau surpassed Fuller in popularity. Not unexpectedly I could see a major rise in Thoreau’s popularity in the 1950’s after “The Harvard School” authors like Henry Nash Smith, FO Mattheissen, and Perry Miller started for formalize a school of thought that canonized Thoreau, but NOT Fuller. What surprised me was that Fuller was heads and shoulders above him in popularity and number of books published about her from the mid 1800s through the 1950s.
So, the data visualization exercise was a way to practically visualize a hunch I had about two authors and their place in the world.