Using vision to think with is not something new; people have acknowledged the expressive potential ofvisualization techniques since the 19
century. The upcoming popularity of the visualization of dataand the spill of this technique from the domain of experts to the domain of amateurs is something wehave never seen before. Creating knowledge and thoughtful insights by means of effective visualmetaphors as a solution for the current overload of abstract data that is present within our society issomething we should embrace. But is this really the case? This paper is written to identify the broadfield of datavisualization
and it’s unique characteristics and work towards a
better understanding ofaesthetics as a technical design choice that draws upon visual cognition and perception research tocomplement visualization techniques and their function in visually conveying knowledge to anaudience. I would like to take this paper beyond the subjective debate of science versus art supportedby one-sided arguments and see in what way they can complement each other within the field ofdatavisualization. First I will look at the current debate and analyse the existing tensions between formand function and discuss in what way visualization techniques can contribute to the attractiveness andunderstanding of large amounts of data. Finally I want to conclude if and how the democratizing ofdatavisualization can be considered a desirable development by exploring how online visualizationtools like Many Eyes are implementing form and function in their design.
: datavisualization, visual design, aesthetics, online visualization tool (Many Eyes), visualliteracy.