Visualising Data

In the past graphical presentations of data required painstaking artistic capacity. Nowadays, computers have made it easier to analyse large quantities of data and present the results graphically with minimal time and effort. But conversely, data handling software can limit the modes of presentation and, used intelligently, provides the means to obscure the facts. Edward Tufte is a celebrated historian who has looked at graphical presentation of data throughout the ages. He presents this point well.

Enthusiasts, partisans, and liars have long tinkered with graphical evidence by de-quantifying images, selecting and hyping advantageous visual effects, distorting data. Recently, inexpensive computing and ingenious techniques for image processing have provided endless new opportunities for mischief. Arbitrary, transient, one-sided, fractured, undocumented materials have become the great predicament of image making and processing. How are we to assess the integrity of visual evidence?

This quotation comes from Edward R. Tufte, Visual Explanations: Images and Quantities, Evidence and Narrative. 1997. He has produced a series that is cited in the resources section. These books present an attractive and exciting perspective on the communication of synthesised information.

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Basic resources

R. Tufte at Yale University

Visual Explanations: Images and Quantities, Evidence and Narrative. 1997.

One of four books

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Books, I know! But produced by his own company and beautiful to own. Shows how humans have explained data in a plethora of hand drawn illustrations, which capture the imagination about how computers could do so much more. In the later books he does begin to analyse computer presentation

The features of Inspire Data can be explored here [].



Don’t forget the use of spreadsheets in visualizing data. You can look at Excel here


Google maps


Since Google Earth first appeared much has happened in the visualisation of data


Markers around the world that relate to all the wikipedia entries.

Talleye/Bighole Participants choose the place they want to start from and what direction they will walk in. The map then shows them what they pass if they walk in a straight line around the world.

Terrorist events and other suspicious activities Students can use this map to watch terrorist events and other suspicious activities as they unfold. The map is lit up with bomb animations and logos of missing persons. Global incident map

There is also a program to help you calculate how far you walk: GMap pedometer

Another program sllows an estimate of GreenSpaces:
Greenspace research

Animal Map []

Face book friends [] []

House prices []

Music []

Regional Traffic []

Sun’s journey []

Online archaeology []

US Holocaust Memorial Museum []

Virtual Tourism [] Personalising maps See []

Web 2.0 technologies have the potential to present data in unique and dramatic ways, the visual often highlight hidden meaning or can be used to focus on one specific element of a data set. Data can be uploaded and presented in various formats almost immediately. This might range from simple online polls through to more complex visualisations such as Many Eyes, (link below).

The Periodic table of Visualisation [] offers a great interactive overview of the different classes of data visualisation, many of which serve as a basis of Web visualisations. Some examples include:

Many Eyes will be a revelation to any pupil or teacher who is working with it in data on an (Excel) spreadsheet. Data in csv, tab or spreadsheet format can be uploaded and displayed in the most appropriate format. Visitors can then explore the interactively.

Note ! A good screencast is available here Statsaholic [] Compare web site traffic and statistics from up to three different domains. You can also embed the charts in other webpages or blogs.

Simile Timeline Exemplars of an interactive timeline of either; JFK Assassination, Dinosaurs or Religion. This application shows the potential of interactive timelines. It is possible to build ones own using the Simile OS software but some experience of coding is required.

Gapminder displays global statistics in new visual and animated ways. “ Goal: enable you to make sense of the world by having fun with statistics. Method: turn boring data into enjoyable interactive animations using Flash technology.”