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Our world is getting more complex every day. Never before have so many people had access to so much information. Never has the amount of information increased so much. Today we take much information for granted which a few years ago would have been next to impossible to obtain or generate (such as genome sequences). Yet we are also drowning in an ocean of data. We often struggle with prioritizing which sources of information to seek out and which ones to avoid. And in a quantitative sense, most of the information “out there” is unknown to us. It is often hard to get a sense of “the bigger picture” from the limited amount of information registered by us.

Data Visualizations: There is a good reason why we say that “a picture is worth a thousand words”: Human beings are highly visual in nature. For example, by far the biggest area of our cortex is dedicated to processing visual stimuli from the world around us. It is therefore natural to present information visually. So natural in fact that “seeing is believing”. Want to teach/educate/convince me? Show me!

Interactive Visualizations takes this one step further: By allowing to interact with the data and seeing the impact in context and in realtime invites exploration, discovery and a deeper level of understanding. I’m not just thinking of looking at tabular data using visual filtering, grouping, aggregating, coloring etc. – although all those make exploration easier and bring patterns or trends in-sight. I’m thinking of realtime 3D rendering of visual models rotating in space or changing over time. I’m also thinking of realtime computing using complex, nonlinear underlying models where changing parameters can have surprising results. All young mammals play; they learn much more by interacting with their environment and observing the consequences of their interactions; this helps form a mental model of their environment. If seeing is believing, then interacting is to “grasp” the underlying causes or models. Let’s play!

When raw information is consumed, it often doesn’t translate into knowledge or insight which will influence how we think and what decisions we make. This Blog is about useful methods and instruments for aggregating and analyzing data, visualizing structure in the data, and thus creating insight.

Wordle composed of a half-dozen Blog posts on Visualign

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