Defining Visualization based on its purpose
Everyone knows that Tabulation is the most basic method of summarizing and representing data in a effortlessly understandable means, however, many of us have no taste for numerical figures.
Instead most people would prefer a different of representation where numerical figures could be refrained.
This is attainable by representing any data (whether in art, science, design, statistics, computer science, etc.) with the help of visualization.
The purpose of visualization is to communicate, broadcast, connect an abstract (non-visual) data to the audience. In other words, the data must be something that is conceptual, abstract or theoretical and something that not immediately visible such as the chemical processes inside of the human body.
Visualization turns things that cannot be seen with the naked eyes to be visible.
Like photography and image processing, visualization produces image that is always clear since the visual is its main means of communication, however if the image takes only minimal part of the information like editorial images, then the image is not considered as visualization.
The most essential purpose of visualization is to provide something information that provides its audience additional knowledge from the data.
The visualization must be recognizable so it’s important to use and interpret relevant (and important) visuals that are perceptible because non-importance visuals will never give any essential information.
What is Visualization?
Visualization was indirectly defined by William Plaifair in his book An Inquiry into the Permanent Causes of the Decline and Fall of Powerful and Wealthy Nations.
In his chart that represents “the the rise and fall of all nations or countries, that have been particularly distinguished for wealth or power, is the first of the sort that ever was engraved, and has, therefore, not yet met with public approbation.”
Willliam Plaifair stated that:
“I first drew the Chart in order to clear up my own ideas on the subject, finding it very troublesome to retain a distinct notion of the changes that had taken place. I found it answer the purpose beyond my expectation, by bringing into one view the result of details that are dispersed over a very wide and intricate field of universal history; facts sometimes connected with each other, sometimes not, and always requiring reflection each time they were referred to.”
Moreover, William Playfair was the one who first used the most common types visualization: the bar chart and a line graph and the pie chart in his remarkable atlas Playfair’s Commercial and Political Atlas and Statistical Breviary in 1786.
This 2005 version of the was introducted by Howard Wainer, an Adjunct Professor of Statistics at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.
“Playfair invented the pie chart and expanded upon this concept to facilitate the comparison of the resources of European countries. Playfair’s work has great relevance to contemporary science, but finding copies of his original versions is very difficult. This re-issuance of two of his classic works, with new explanatory material, allows access to his wisdom for the first time in two centuries. In full color exactly as Playfair hand-colored the original, this volume includes exact duplicates of the third edition of his classic Atlas as well as the Statistical Breviary.”- Howard Wainer
Data and information visualization
The given definitions and purposes visualization above may cause some confusion. We must understand first what we are talking about when we are working in data or information visualization.
There are many definition for the term Visualization, yet, the most referred one, which is defined by Jock D. Mackinlay and Stuart Card in their book Readings in Information Visualization: Using Vision to Think.
The authors defined the word Visualization as:
“the use of computer-supported, interactive, visual representations of data to amplify cognition”.
Here the word cognition means the power of human perception or in other words, it’s the acquisition or use of knowledge.
The practice of data visualization, which is the study of representation of data in some systematic form, including attributes and variables for the unit of information and usually analyzes large data sets.
There are many data visualization techniques such as table, bar chart, area chart, histogram, line chart, scatter plot and bubble chart.
They all seeks to uncover trends by showing meta patterns, or to make single data points easily visible and extractable. These data presentation must be beautiful, presentable, analytical, and interpretable with combined use of a coordination system, points, lines, shapes, digits, letters quantified by visual attributes in order to send the intended message to the reader effectively.
These visualizations are general, context-free since graphics functionally serve only as art pieces, if no message can be extracted, and often times created automatically as they often are attempting to display a great number of data points.
Additionally, they should be both attractive and meaningful, allowing the viewer to analyze data and recognize its direction while admiring the overall aesthetic appeal.
Defined as the interactive, graphical presentation of data, information visualization is a research area that focuses on the use of graphical techniques to present, understand, evaluate and analyze data in a straightforward form.
It is a very useful method for understanding and working with data that arises from its capacity to apply perception and visual thinking to understanding complicated data and solving severe analytical problems.
Originally defined in 1993 by George G. Robertson, Information visualization is the transmission of abstract data with the help of interactive visual interfaces. It uses all aspects of imaging, graphics, scientific visualization, and human-computer and human-information interactions as well as information technology.
In contrast to data visualization, information visualization focuses on information that is usually abstract, thus lacking natural and obvious physical representation.
Information is part of human life, since it stimulate new ways to think and evolve new advancement.
However, with too much amount of information or data are generated from different sources and because these information are of diverse types, they must be presented in different format.