Sunday, November 9, 2008

The Comfort of Information Graphics

I stumbled upon this Royskopp video for the song "Remind Me". This is yet another great example of isometric art, but it's also an excellent montage on the use of infographics. I find this video oddly comforting. I've had other people tell me that it makes them depressed.

Information graphics or infographics are visual representations of information, data, or knowledge. If you haven't noticed, our society is obsessed with maps, charts, diagrams, schematics, and the like. This is not a new thing, we just have better technology now - remember when we sent Carl Sagan's infographic into space in 1972? Our recent financial crisis has everyone looking at line charts depicting the drop of their portfolio or retirement account. This week's presidential election was a fantastic case study in our need for infographics. Every state, every county, painted blue or red to signify victory or defeat. Thousands of bar and pie charts chronicled the specific tastes of voters.

CNN's John King touched the "Magic Wall" repeatedly over the past year to make complex data easier for viewers to understand. I have to admit, the first time I saw this magic wall I laughed out loud and thought, "Why does John King need to be in this picture? Does a human dragging things around on the screen make this more interesting to viewers than just an infographic taking over the set?" I kept wanting them to zoom in on the screen. Don't get me wrong, I love the technology, but it's interesting to see CNN's need to put one of its anchors in the picture when this could easily be done as a screen shot with voice-over.

Any talk about information graphics would not be complete without mentioning Yale's professor emeritus Edward Tufte and his excellent books on displaying information visually. Like many innovators Tufte has some delusions of grandeur about his work, but it's still really interesting stuff. There's no denying the fact that our society prefers to see data in visual form. I wonder what Tufte thinks about the magic wall.

1 comment:

Dave Enna said...

Haha that's a really cool video to a good techno song