Poor Form Response

In the first chapter of Kieran Healy’s book “Data Visualization for Social Science” articulates the different  methods and means for  exploring, understanding, and explaining data. He structures the chapter into eight sections bringing the reader on a journey through the strengths and weaknesses of communicating data into a visually designed figure. He discusses that problems in relation to graphs can be one of three categories: aesthetically tasteless, substantively presented subjectively or perceptually misleading or confusing. A notion I found interesting was that while there are positive aspects to following a simplistic approach to constructing graphics, often what they gain in merit from this "data to ink ratio" they loose in memorability. Healy also details the importance of "how much we are letting the data speak to us, as opposed to arranging it to say what we already think for other reasons."

In his example reporting from the New York Times on the stability of democracies polled across citizens in 6 countries, this idea of substantively sound data comes into play. Simply by assigning the values on the y-value to percentages versus the number scale from 1-10 participants were asked to evaluate can completely shift the readability of the data. An important element to keep in mind is the audience for which you are then going to present this data too.

In a quick glance, or to untrained eyes, elements such as additional dimensions, contrast, and spacing can all influence our perceptual process as a viewer. Not intentionally meant to deceive, these perceptions are something that is not within our control. As the interpreter and creator of data visualizations it is important to keep in mind your audience at all times. Initially having heard of the gestalt principles, I was intrigued in the practical ways in which I saw them implemented effectively. I would be curious as to hear as well as see the ways in which my peers can push and expand these rules to allow for effective visual communication in our poster series project.

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