Last week I had the pleasure of meeting the driven students in Norrkoping studying media technology. I held a session at MTD2013 and was very impressed at how well put together the event was, and how they took care of me and everybody else.- Thank you for the company and the photo Johan 🙂
I had many good conversations, with sponsors such as Dice and the students. Many of the students there study information visualization, and to be honest- I wasn’t quite sure what that was. Of course I could make a pretty good guess, but why not look it up?
I asked the students and they described it as ‘showing data in a way that humans can easily understand, and in a way that makes sense’. I watched a session by a young woman showing her graduation project in information visualization, and she had put together a beautiful dashboard that showed blog statistics data, and ways to compare and analyze data. What hit me, is that this is really a science and I was quite impressed with the ways she allowed the user to view and analyze otherwise boring data.
Let’s have a closer look at this.
Information is basically data (‘Knowledge derived from study, experience, or instruction’), and visualization is a mental model. Together they should give the user a mental image or model, based on information that is derived from data in a comprehensible way- and in a way that makes sense for the intended user and the data.
The whole thing has three important parts, representation, presentation and interaction- and how we best go about it depends greatly on the data domain and the relevant human characteristics. So there is a lot to think about, which results in a wide range of tools we as developers can use. Telerik (where I work as a technical evangelist) has several tools and components for that- such as the charting controls I used in the step by step guide, and Telerik Reporting– more or less you’ll find some sort of information visualization integrated in most of our products and I’m sure most people have used some sort of tool at some point. I remember when we studied statistics at university how easy it was to manipulate how the data was interpreted by visualizing the information in a different way. Rather scary!
I’m actually really keen on leaning more about information visualization, so expect more about that in upcoming posts, I ordered some books on the subject from amazon 🙂