|InfoVis.net>Magazine>message nº 108||Published 2002-12-02|
|También disponible en Español|
The digital magazine of InfoVis.net
Last Wednesday I had the luck to contribute with a presentation to the “IV Jornadas de Gestión de la Información” (4th Workshop on Information Management”, organised by SEDIC the Spanish Society for Scientific Documentation and Information. My talk was a little tour around Information Visualisation explaining the most emblematic applications along with some of the most advanced ones, capable of changing the rules of the game.
These aren’t, however, the most appropriate for immediate application in the day to day practice. Hence I had the sensation that, despite the apparent success of my speech, I didn’t stress enough the fact that the creation of the most modest and usual graphics that we see in some presentations is not only an important part of this discipline, but the one we can all directly benefit from.
For this reason it’s interesting to reflect how to increase the effectiveness of the graphics and diagrams we use in our presentations. Spreadsheets are a common tool in today’s work. Every user of one of these tools can also build graphics based on the data, but the use of them is still precarious in many organisations.
In issue number 73 we discussed the general process of building a graphic, but before doing this we have to first answer the following question: when should I use a graphic? Edward Tufte professor at Yale considers 5 ways to show quantitative information. We will reduce them to 3 defining them as follows:
Tufte also distinguishes between “table text” and “semi-graphics” that we consider as a combination of table or graphic with sentence. It is made of one of these resources surrounded by text; see “The Visual Display of Quantitative Information”, chapter 9
So, the core of today's issue could be summarised into a sentence:
But, in order to illustrate the message we want to transmit, we could use a table as well.
But we could still use a graphic to express the same information (see the figure)
Colour gradation indicates that neither 3 nor 20 are definitive numbers, it depends on the application. The graphic adds in this case an extra expressivity to the exact number of the table and reduces the verbosity needed to explain this message. You should judge by yourselves which one among the three is the most appropriate for this case.
Then, why this long article if the contents can be summarised in a brief table or an elementary diagram?. Because context, a key element in order to convert information into knowledge, and nuance are difficult to transmit by means of tables and graphics, even when we are talking about quantitative information.
The same happens with personal experiences and opinion, undividable parts of the articles you have been kind enough to read. For the appropriate combination of the different elements is essential to gain a better insight.
Links of this issue:
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