Info Visualization Workshop

It was standing room only in Micki’s info viz workshop on Thursday. In order to make the demo more interesting, she used a dataset about the class attendees. We all entered our names, school, department & year in a shared online doc which became the basis for parts of the demo. We saw how to take text and clean it up for entry into Excel using a text edit tool, Text Wrangler. Tabs! Tabs are the answer. Data separated by tabs will go into individual cells in Excel, making it easier to manipulate once in there. Tabs>commas, apparently.

Once the data was in Excel, we saw some basic functions like using the data filter function, making a pivot table, an area graph and a stacked area graph.

After Excel we moved on to Gephi. Unfortunately none of the participants could get Gephi on our computers, so we just watched Micki do a demo. Using our class participant data, she showed us the steps to get the data in and how to do some basic things to get a good looking visualization, and how to play around with different algorithms and options. This was a pretty small dataset with few connections, so to illustrate some of the more complex things Gephi can do, Micki showed us examples from her own work. For me, this was the best part. I think Liam linked to it earlier, but I highly recommend you look at the force-directed graphs section on Quantifying Kissinger.

Stephen brought up the ‘so what?’ factor with regard to Lev Manovich’s visualizations. I thought Micki’s provided a good counterpoint to that, as she explained how certain visualizations made patterns or connections clear—things that might not have been revealed in another type of analysis.

Overall this was a very informative and useful workshop. It gave me courage to go home and play with my data in Gephi in ways that I didn’t feel able to before, and I hope it encouraged others to get started on their own projects.


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