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The Endnote: Adding Value With Visualization

Elizabeth Lane Lawley

Elizabeth Lane (“Liz”) Lawley returned to IL to give the endnote address.  Liz is Director of the Lab for Social Computing at Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT), and she also consults for Microsoft.  Her topic this year was Adding Value With Visualization.

Visualization is not new.  In 1992, Edward Tufte published The Visual Display of Quantitative Information.  Most people are not good at visualization.  We are drowning in data; one of the best ways we can make sense of it is through visualization.  There are 2 views of the world;  one is with us at the center, and the other is other people in aggregate (the big picture).  Here is a good resource for this.

Data visualization is a new way for us to express concepts.  The best way for people to learn about visualizations is to make them.  But be sure your visualizations are not misleading.  Shaping data is hard.  It requires visual thinking.

The power of visualizing data is in the trend line, not the individual points. What feedback loops can we get out of our data?  Most library visualizations are about the large aggregate, but we are more interested in the details. There is also a move to treat visualizations as art, but the best visualizations are the ones where we can immediately identify with the data.

The Feltron Report presents data about a year in one person’s life. Mint is another system to generate visualizations of personal data.  Data on communities of people can be found at SparkPeople.

Visualization lets us see shifts immediately.  The New York Times has been in the lead in producing these types of fact-based visualizations.  Google also has some excellent free tools.  Eye tracking and click tracking are forms of visualization.

You can see Liz’s examples and slides on her blog.


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