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Visualization as a New Media Literacy
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Visualization as a New Media Literacy


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A discussion of how visualization is changing how information is presented and understood and why it should be considered a new literacy.

A discussion of how visualization is changing how information is presented and understood and why it should be considered a new literacy.

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  • Visualization is not a new phenomenon. Experts, such as scientists, have been collecting data to aggregate, analyze and quantify into visual presentations for some time. And, use of images as visualizations in mass media was common with newspapers, when journalists used tables, charts and maps to explain and share large amounts of information with the public. But now, new technologies has democratized the process. The social platforms we participate in keep track of our actions and store the personal data to better understand our thoughts, interests and desires; and companies from every facet of life – economy, environment, education, health, transportation, etc –collect data too. These combined have given rise to a world made-up of big data where pools of information are gathered from a plethora of digital devices that we use on a daily basis. Not only is data being collected, but also companies are opening their data to share with the public and visualizations help us make sense of our society and questions we have of our place in it. This top down combined with grass roots aggregation of our actions offers a broader view of the world given by more people rather than the singular expert opinion that traditional visualizations offered. This has impacted NML to identify a twelfth skill, Visualization. Visualization -- the ability to interpret and create data representations for the purpose of expressing ideas finding patterns and identifying trends.
  • I always think our obsession with Big Data began with the Matrix ...when popular culture brought to the forefront of our minds that we could see the world in a different way, that we, as human beings, are made up of mind, body and soul and can that be aggregated into 0s and 1s. But now ...big data has become a reality and we have an obsession with understanding how we are as a society and visualizations help us make sense of that. With the ability to represent big data, the information age is giving way to a conceptual age where we push forward with using visualization beyond numeric metrics to making sense of our social constructs. Visualization is more than a static image on a page. Visualizations now are interactive, adding a new level of representation of the data. It combines quantity and quality (numbers and text) to better understand, interpret and interact with art, science and society.
  • This image is A visualization of thousands of Wikipedia edits that were made by a single software bot. Each color corresponds to a different page. Visualizations use data as inputs and an interactive image or text as the output to represent some kind of information, whether it is to tell a story, write an argument, and explain complex problems. But it also isn’t about providing answers, visualizations fosters new questions when new patterns emerge.
  • Using visualization, the adage “A picture is worth a thousand words” extends to be multiple pictures, hundreds of thousands of words with multiple strands of stories layered and intertwined with each other into a saga. Artists, like Jonathan Harris, are an example of this new type of artist who uses visualizations to combine humanity with science. As much as new media offers ways to systematize our information, it also offers a place for people to share and contribute their thoughts, ideas and feelings of themselves, others and society. Jonathan’s two forms of work explores “man in the machine”, such as his piece I Want You to Want Me ( ), an interactive installation about online dating; shown at MoMA in 2008 -- Displayed on a 56” touch screen monitor, the piece portrays an interactive sky filled with hundreds of pink (female) and blue (male) balloons, each representing a real person’s online dating profile collected from any one of several dozen Internet dating websites. Viewers can touch individual balloons to reveal personal information about the dater inside, and can rearrange the balloons in various ways to highlight different aspects of the world of online dating, including the top turn-ons, the most popular first dates, and the top desires.
  • and “the machine in man”, such as The Whale Hunt ( ), a ‘photographic heartbeat’ of a traditional Alaskan Eskimo whale hunt made up of 3,214 photographs that is viewed from multiple perspectives and manipulated on various points of the sequence. Brings together two modes -- time based and space
  • Scientists have long been using visualizations. But rather than work in isolation in a lab, new forms of data aggregation and visualization allow for scientists to collaborate not only across the world, but across disciplines to hypothesize, solve more complex problems and offer and encourage new theories to emerge. Some say the unexplored world is the oceans right here on earth. Over 2000 scientists from 80+ nations are pooling their knowledge together to create a census of the tiniest ocean creatures, like microbes and zooplankton animals. This interactive gallery displays the visual complexity of the undiscovered oceans. Using 3D visualizations and maps helps scientists to better understand these hardest-to-see species and is critical for society to understand the multiple dynamics of our life on Earth and the lifespan of our planet. ( )
  • Type the word, “Why…” in Google’s search box and up pops the most searched phrases, like “Why is the sky blue?” Netflix makes recommendations of movies you’ll enjoy based on past films watched and reviewed. Twitter shows you your friends and who they are connected to. Want to make sense of the State of the Union speech? Load it into Wordle and the key themes will reveal.
  • Post images from your vacation and they will automatically geo-locate onto a map to share your journey with others. Not a day goes by where visualizations don't impact what we do. Data increasingly mediates our lives and visualization allows us to all be inquirers and have the ability to interpret and represent data in a meaningful way. We are able to combine multiple data sets of our participation and philosophize on what we want and how we exist in the world. Like a lens on a camera, we now have the ability to zoom out for the macro overview or zoom in to micro and see the tiniest detail in the original context of the visualization .
  • When I first started to think and talk about visualization, Chris Mackie asked me, “What do you envision as the most likely pathway from these works of individual genius (like Jonathan Harris’ examples) to a future in which large-scale visualization will be readily achievable by graphically-challenged folks like me?” I think the answer to that question lies in all of us learning how to read and write visualization as a new form of literacy. We cannot think of language (such as print literacy) as the main means for representation and communication. New modes of meaning have emerged that need to be taken into consideration when thinking about literacy (Kress, p35). Though it is important to know how to traditionally read and write, the new media literacies builds upon this knowledge and offers new forms of reading and writing through social interaction with others. Visualization takes into account the importance of knowing how to read and write data as images and mediates our interaction with information.
  • But how do we look at integrating this new media literacy across the different stages of child development -- Learn to move from a beginning understanding of reading visualizations to an expert that can write and manipulate data into visualizations. As a beginner, we need to learn how to read and interpret visualizations. So are the images I’ve posted -- are they visualizations? The preschool television series, Word World , is a wonderful example of using visual literacy to teach children how to read and write. Word World is made up of a group of friends who are characters first and words second. The characters are animals whose bodies are made up of the letters that spell the word they are. Often they ask the children watching the show to build a word, which is phonetically sounded out as the word is built. Have you ever heard the saying, “What are the two things you ask someone when you visit a new country? Who is Santa Claus? And how does a rooster sound?” You will get a different answer in each culture. So, though Word World is visual literacy, it is a US-centric one where the words are spelled in English and wouldn’t transfer across cultures. It’s visual but it reinforces literacies of learning how to spell and write in the traditional understanding of literacy. If we were to push this concept to motivate the child into further exploring visualization as a literacy, a next step would be to move from words to understanding environments or actions. This concept offers multiple modes of understanding literacy. What are the other modes that get across the concept that pushes us beyond writing the word? Look at the home page of PBS Kids Go! ...not only does it have shapes, images and color to direct your eye, but it has sounds to get your attention and animated movies that jump when you interact with it.
  • Although this emerging technology integrates various informational representations in a 3D interface and enables new relationships between information, the tools we use to access it, and the space we move through, high-end technology is not the only way to "augment reality" with information to shape and engage with the community who uses it. Our public spaces are already layered with information-- advertisement, signs, graffiti, murals, flyers, newspapers, store names-- what Rekha Murthy calls "ambient street media." Murthy's thesis, which analyzed of the ambient street media of Central Square, Cambridge, MA found that the street provided a direct, accessible, and afforable channel of communication.This work provides not just a case study but also a methodology for developing lesson plans. What kind of ambient street media might your students find in their communities? What kind of arguments might they be able to make using these observations? Students might try to understand how different groups feel about different kinds of ambient street media, from murals to graffiti, from advertising to transportation signs.
  • Intermediary Understanding – a periodic table of tools… the ability to take away anything that is not data. Understand how a visualization as the medium to engage audience. This here is the periodic table of visualization methods. Alot of the examples that I fronted this conversation with fall into the information visualization section. However, I think all of these categories are relevant when thinking about visualization as a new media literacy. You might already be familiar with how to use a bar chart in the data visualization section or have used a mindmap to generate new ideas for a project. Broken down into the simplest form of understanding visualization as a new form of reading and writing, one can identify new forms of writing as the structural level. Structural level is to know the different types of visual methods available to represent the data and understand which one to use to best represent your inquiry. Visualization methods are a systematic graphic format to create, share and codify knowledge (Lengler R., Eppler M., 2007). Many Eyes is an online tool for you to create your own visualizations. And provide detailed explanation of each type and how to use it. But it is also important to have the ability to read the presentation the visualization method offers. This is how the data is mapped onto the image and how the reader interprets its hierarchy and composition to communicate clearly. Effective look and feel, such as color, shape and line help to better represent the information.
  • For example, Network visualization methods are more of a macro representation of data. They give you overviews of social constructs, the relationship between people, items or entities. The larger the node, the more that is connected to that one person. This is Silobreaker, an automated search service for news and current affairs that aims to provide more relevant results to the user than what traditional search and aggregation engines have been offering so far. Instead of returning just lists of articles matching a search query, Silobreaker finds people, companies, organizations, topics, places and keywords; understands how they relate to each other in the news flow, and puts them in context through visualizations. This network shows the war in afghanistan The visualization of the network is optimized to keep strongly related items in close proximity to each other. In this way, the overall arrangement of nodes in the network is very telling of the structure of the connections between nodes (nodes that are far away are weakly related to each other). In this visualization, the size of a node is proportional to the number of edges emanating from it.
  • A micro representation of data is using a different visualization method, like a phrase net diagram. This is a fairly new type of method and is in between a tag cloud, like what Wordle can do and a word tree, which lets you pick a word or phrase and shows you all the different contexts the text appears, whether in one book or across multiple books for comparison. Phrase Nets explore the relationships between different words used in a specific text. It uses a simple form of pattern matching to provide multiple views of the concepts contained a book, speech, or poem. This image is a word graph made from Jane Austen's novel "Pride and Prejudice." The program has drawn a network of words, where two words are connected if they appear together in a phrase of the form "X and Y" We don’t know what the characters said, or their actions – just that they spoke with each other and which of the characters had the most dialogue based on the size of the character’s name and the thickness of the arrow in relation to the other character. So the main characters are linked together, whereas positive attributes of the characters form a group, same with negative. For those of you who know the book, this shows us that Darcy, who is a main character does not show up in the network and a question could be why? Why as a main character is he not represented? What does that say about his character? PhraseNet can be used to look at literary styles over the century, understand power relations between characters, identifying alliteration and assonance in poetry.
  • An expert can create their own data sets, understand multiple variables and experiment with multiple data sets to form new hypothesis, find new patterns and trends. To bring the two new media literacies together, I want to share with some information on our 2nd Teachers’ Strategy Guide: Mapping in a Participatory Culture. We found simulation and visualization were particularly appropriate to mapping. "Map" is both a noun and verb and is an entry point in understanding multiple variables and experimenting with data. Although maps have been traditionally thought to provide definition to the real world, which is often contested, in today's media environment, it becomes more and more obvious that all maps make an argument. In a participatory culture, we both use (and critique) maps other people have made and make, collaborate, and share maps we have made. As new media facilitates broader participation in cartography, maps become a media requiring new media literacies. Coming from a media studies background, NML started with seeing maps as media and took five themes related to the traditional media studies approach to mapping. (the blue horizontal axis) • Stories – How people tell maps with stories. • Production – Who makes maps? How are maps made? How does it change the way the maps function and how we relate to them? • Layers – The metaphor of layers in mapping. For example, when you use Google Maps, we can mash-up and lay information over maps and what does that mean. • Space – The relationship between maps as a diagram versus the physical space of a map. For example, the country Iraq is different when you go and meet the people versus viewing the color and the particular shape on a map that represents that space. • Boundaries – This is political boundaries. For example, the boundary between Israel and Palestine or my neighborhood and the one next to it, or a social group boundary in your school. The vertical green axis is drawn from the other NML work we do on participatory culture and were themes that continuously were brought up in discussion during the ideation session: • Civic Engagement – How can we use media to engage with communities to be better citizens, more informed citizens. • Popular Culture – The belief that learning should not stop just because it comes from popular culture. An example is how we can learn from mapping Jack Bower’s movements on a 24 map. • Representations – The idea that there are multiple ways to represent information. Maps convey different things, depending on the type of map. • Modeling Real-world Systems – This focuses on NML, simulations and offers examples the use of maps as a form to learn, play and better understand real-world situations. • Collaborative Expertise – The theme of co-configured expertise runs throughout NML’s research. It is our belief that teachers aren’t the only one’s with expertise and we should encourage students’ expertise and passions in the classroom as well. The goal is to bring them together.
  • This link will take you to the Mapping guide. We have flushed out Boundaries Module by collecting and developing examples and activities that explore "boundaries" as they exist at the global, local, social, and metaphorical levels. And Layers Module -- We can learn much from thinking of maps in terms of layers, by adding layers of information to the world physically or digitally or by analyzing the layers others have added. These layers can be informational, fictional, or personal And add your own examples of visualization
  • Transcript

    • 1. … as a new media literacy Visualization Erin Reilly Research Director [email_address]
    • 2.  
    • 3. Big Data Image: Fernanda B. Viégas, Martin Wattenberg, and Kate Hollenbach
    • 4.
    • 5.
    • 6.  
    • 7.  
    • 8.  
    • 9.  
    • 10. Beginner Learn how to read and interpret visualizations
    • 11. Analyzing Layers: Ambient Street Media
    • 12. Intermediate Identify variables and understand how a visualization is a medium to engage community
    • 13. SILO breaker
    • 14. many eyes
    • 15. Expert Ability to create, manipulate and analyze data /
    • 16. Mapping in a Participatory Culture
    • 17. For More Information: Follow NML’s Blog at Questions? Erin Reilly Research Director [email_address]