Thursday, March 20, 2008


Over the last week or so I've spent most of my free time surfing the web looking at visual thinking websites, focusing mostly on information visualization, or InfoVis, as some call it. Wow, there is some really cool stuff out there. Anybody who has been involved in that discipline for very long is no doubt aware of most of these findings, but I thought I'd share some here just in case any out there aren't familiar with them.

Of all the disciplines represented by the term visual thinking, I seem to be most drawn to information visualization and data visualization (I'm still struggling to try to find the distinction between the two). I was a bit disappointed that this particular discipline wasn't very well represented at VizThink 08, but I'm hoping that will change in coming years.

Anyway, first up is a paper that's nearly 3 years old from Chaomei Chen of Drexel University titled, "Top 10 Unsolved Information Visualization Problems." It's a bit old but it had some great insights into information visualization discipline from within the community.

Next up, I ran across Stephen Few's website, Stephen writes a monthly newsletter, of which I've downloaded and read a couple, "Practical Rules for Using Colors in Charts," and "InfoVis as Seen by the World Out There: 2007 in Review." Some really good stuff on information visualization here.

I forwarded these to my wife and she commented to me that Stephen was originally scheduled for VizThink 08. I found his blog entry about his decision to drop out of VizThink kind of interesting. While I agree with a few of his concerns, mainly that VizThink '08 was too heavily skewed to drawing and sketching, from my perspective he made the wrong decision by dropping out. I really would have enjoyed attending a breakout session of his. I think the conference needed more of what I'm calling the "analytical" side of visual thinking as opposed to mostly the "creative" side that was represented.

As an attendee of VizThink, while I was a bit disappointed there wasn't much available in the data and information visualization disciplines, I came away from it with a renewed interest in anything related to visual thinking and I think had infovis been better represented I, as well as others, would have been positively influenced and Stephen could have made headway in the points he makes in his "Infovis as Seen ... " article.

But I digress. On to the next find. This one I had heard about and seen referenced but never actually seen, Hans Rosling's 2006 TED conference presentation.

This is absolutely awesome! If you consider yourself a visual thinker and haven't seen this, it's a must see. Eighteen minutes of fantastic data visualization. Check it out. On that note, I'm going to leave it at that for now and go look for some more cool stuff.

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