Visualization and Infographics

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Understanding Visualization

Visualization can be understood from multiple different perspectives such as a good drawing, detailed graph or sketch etc, are some of the examples. These pictorial representations are trying to portray a meaning through a visual format. However, visualization of any meaningful data must imply sensible and realistic facts which are more practical based rather than on theoretical considerations. Any good visualization should be fulfilling the 3 basic criterias namely:

  • It should be based on (non-visual) data:Visualization’s purpose is to communicate data in a most simplistic manner. This implies that the data must come from something that is abstract or at least not immediately visible. This does not include photography and image processing. Here visualization is primarily transforming data which is invisible into visible and meaningful facts.
  • It should produce an image:Visualization has to produce an image. Also, the visual must be the primary means of communication. The other modalities must provide additional information. If the image is only a small part of the process, then it is not visualization.
  • The result must be readable and recognizable: The most important criteria is that the visualization must provide a way to learn something from the data. Any transformation of non-trivial data into an image will leave out information, but there must be at least some relevant aspects of the data that can be read. The visualization must not pretend to project something different from what the actual data is trying to imply.Otherwise visualization loses its essence.

The term "visualization" carries multiple meanings. However, the key aspect to be kept in mind is what we are talking about when we are working in scientific or information visualization. Here our purpose defines the concept of visualization. The above facts only provide a baseline that all visualizations must fulfill. However, it is a developing field and greater the exploration, the more it will help in understanding the true essence of visualization of the data.

Importance of Visualization in Open Data

Open data and visualization both go hand-in-hand. Very few individuals may actually possess the abilities to decipher information from the raw format. Although raw data has the potential of becoming "information". However, it requires selective extraction, organization, analysis and formatting for presentation. This is where visualization comes in. Visualization of data is a very important aspect of open data and crucial to ensure that the user is able to understand the information he/she is accessing.

The raw data, collected through different primary and secondary tools of research, lacks proper clarity as it is not processed and infected with a lot of noise. In simple words, it cannot be deciphered by every user who has access to such information. The principle role of any data is to make sense and visualization helps in providing the data, its meaning. Visualization of large volumes of open data enable any user to focus on the core aspects that the data is trying to highlight. Visualization is also important to ensure simplicity, as complex information cannot be fully decoded. Visualization helps in providing insights about the data as well which otherwise may be difficult to interpret.

For instance, the image below provides an insight as to why visualization of open data is crucial:


Another interesting example of visualization is the pilot study of Bihar, to assess how many households actually have access to toilets. The data collected through survey was visualized on the map of Bihar:


To know more click here.

A very important fact about visualization in the domain of open-data is that visualization is never static, rather dynamic and constantly evolving at every stage. For instance the image below gives a contrast between two visualization themes of the same data and how the process of evolving the visualization theme can help in better dissemination of information to the public.

Visualization theme.png

Infographics and Open Data

Information graphics or infographics are graphic visual representations of information, data or knowledge that intend to present information quickly and clearly. It can also be understood as representation of information in a graphics format designed to make the data easily understandable at a glance. People use infographics to quickly communicate a message, to simplify the presentation of large amounts of data, to see data patterns and relationships, and to monitor changes in variables over time. They can improve cognition by utilizing graphics to enhance the human visual system’s ability to see patterns and trends.

We are exposed to infographics in our day-to-day lives. For instance, traffic signs, subway maps, tag clouds, musical scores and weather charts are just a few examples. Infographics include bar graphs, pie charts, histograms, line charts, tree diagrams, mind maps, Gantt charts, and network diagrams etc. As the amount of data being amassed in the enterprise and elsewhere increases, infographics are seen to be used more often to help people understand the information contained in that data. Infographics predates writing as a means of disseminating information. For instance, cave drawings can be seen as the earliest known examples of infographics.

Infographics have a lot of relevance in today's time as there are a lot of data available on different online spaces but only few of them can be understood by any user due to their simplicity. Not all datasets are simple. Any user having access to larger data-sets, the more difficult it is for him/her to decipher the proper meaning out of it. As a result, infographics plays an effective role in ensuring simplicity of information.

Wikileaks, for instance, has made use of infographics as a way of communicating facts with a larger audience in a simplistic manner. Given below are some of its examples:

About Assange
Wikileak's Networks
Wikileak's History

To know more, click here

Interesting Visualizations/Infographics Out There