This page is a response to an American Evaluation Association Thought Leaders Discussion. If you’re a member of AEA, you can participate here.
If there is a field that seems to be leading the way with interactive visualization, I would say journalism. Some of the most relevant examples I’ve seen were either created by journalists, or by design teams for journalists. The approach is usually interdisciplinary, utilizing the skills graphic designers, analysts, and programmers.
Creating the blog in order to share color examples, is a way to add value on the web but play within the rules of the traditional work. You see this kind of thing with the New York Times. They have a paper product where you can’t make the visuals interactive. So they have the paper version and the dynamic digital version.
The best way I’ve found to get people who are not just visualization fans to jump on the bandwagon is through examples and demos. Very specific demos that show them how visualization can be a useful tool for the work they are doing. I recently put on a demo for using Tableau as a tool for outlier analysis. It went really well because there was a need and I showed them how the tool could be used to meet their need.
I’m glad you liked that cartoon. One of my favorite things about interactive visualization is being able to present data to multiple audiences. Using interactivity you create an opportunity for parts of your audience to see the data in different contexts more suited towards their needs.
I definitely agree that accessibility is an incredibly important issue and one that needs to stay at the forefront of our minds. There is no accessibility button or magic formula. I think one of the simple steps is just being repetitive (beyond alt text for images, captioning for videos, and logical names for any uploaded file) Making sure the ideas you are communicating can be received by your audience. You don’t want a visual to be the only method of communication.
I think we have two issues when it comes to finding good examples. Like you said, it is definitely easier to be a critic, so you find a lot of critiques. I also think a lot of would-be-creators psych themselves out. At this stage, visualization is creative work and creative work is hard because when you put it out there, it goes in front of the critics. So we exercise caution, and then exercise more caution, and then never create anything.
I definitely agree that words do matter. Any visual piece will almost always utilize speech or text. But the same is not true in reverse. And when so much of our work is based around words, and so little utilizes visuals, I don’t think it’s the words that need a champion.
So if it’s the price that keeps interactive visual display off the table, we just need an affordable approach, right? Is it the steps involved in choosing the right metrics that makes up the bulk of the cost or development of the technology?
I have an idea for creating inexpensive dashboard systems just using a WordPress installation and Tableau Public. The tech part would be really inexpensive but it would only work with public data. Making it private is do-able, it just steps up the cost of the tools.