I attended a workshop on (De-)Constructing Information Visualization yesterday evening, led by Yuri Engelhardt and Christian Behrens, who are both specialized in information visualization and data visualization and information design. It was all about ‘exploring the notion of a ‘building block systems’ of visual language: Which basic visual coding principles can be identified as the building blocks of visualization? Which of these building blocks are appropriate for representing which kind of information? What are the ‘rules of the game’ for combining two, three, or many of these basic visual coding principles into meaningful and interesting visual representations?’, as they explain it themselves.
We got a brief introduction to the history of data and information visualization, and then started cutting and pasting and created our own data visualization graphics. We used different cards and figures to represent the data or ‘building blocks’ and tried to recreate existing data visualizations (charts, maps and graphs). This turned out to be a pretty hard concept to grasp, because it’s so abstract. We finally got the hang of it though, when we came up with our own data concept and a visualization to match.
The idea behind our data visualization was that we wanted to create a way to show how many babies were born in the entire city of Amsterdam from 1970 till now. As you can see, there’s a block called ‘surface locator’ on the Map Space (left side). This represents the city of Amsterdam. The ‘node’ on the Map Space (also on the left) represents the different neighbourhoods or city regions of Amsterdam (for example: Amsterdam Bijlmer, Amsterdam Osdorp, Amsterdam Centre and so on). These notions are embedded into the Axis Space, where the Time Axis (1970 till now) and Quantity Axis (the number of babies born) are measured. The ‘node’ on the Axis Space represents the babies born and the ‘connector’, connects the nodes, so a graph would occur. We were dabbling with this idea and it turned out to be a pretty good first effort.
Yuri Engelhardt and Christian Behrens will be leading this workshop at the VizThink Europe ’08 conference held in Berlin on October 14th, so this was not only very useful and interesting for us, but also a try-out for them!