Ripping (dataViz) yarns

An adventurer has brought to life the floating home from Pixar movie Up

Began the class with a game of Ripping Yarns. Working in small groups, the students’ challenge was to deconstruct a data visualization whose meaning wasn’t immediately obvious – i.e. that didn’t hand them an answer on a platter – based on the visual info, hints and clues provided. Then, to construct the best story possible about what the viz meant, keeping just this side of implausibility.

The result? This clockwise visualization, above, represents Battlestar Galactica expenditures before and after the invasion by the Cylons (?)*

Not surprisingly, the author’s intended meaning was different: a comparison of US departmental budgets relative media coverage in 2009. It had nothing to do with flows of either money or time. Can’t blame students for reading either relationship into it the viz, though.

This lesson led right into Week Two’s subject matter: a survey of visualization types and a discussion of their strengths, weaknesses, implications and data-suitability.

Here’s the Week Two slides.

* If I didn’t capture the BG storyline and references accurately, the students can correct me or elaborate, as they see fit.

#DataVizInSixWeeks is my blog about teaching Introduction to Visual Analytics at OCAD University in Toronto. Comments, follows and shares welcome.

Anne Stevens I am a multidisciplinary designer working in data visualization, interaction design, innovation and critical design. I am particularly interested in non-screen based physical representations of data and tangible user interfaces.

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