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The Tyranny of Edward Tufte

#Tuftyranny
SXSW Interactive 09 March 2014 Austin, TX

Gabi Schazin
@GabiSchazin gaboosh@gmail.com

Note: all copyrights held by their respective owners unless otherwise noted. For educational purposes only. For questions, please contact gaboosh@gmail.com.

Hi everyone. Before I get started, I just want to clarify that I am not Mindy Kaling.

Im sorry if there was any confusion. Mindy can be found at the ACC Ballroom D. So Ill give anyone who wants to get there a second before I continue.

The Tyranny of Edward Tufte


#Tuftyranny
SXSW Interactive 09 March 2014 Austin, TX

Gabi Schazin
@GabiSchazin gaboosh@gmail.com

Ok great. Well, thanks for sticking around even after that serious disappointment. I really appreciate everyone fighting the debilitating effects of daylight savings time and showing up to this absurdly massive auditorium. I am Gabi Schaffzin.

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I graduated last May with my MFA from MassArt in Boston. Which, yes, means that Im an artist. And I know what youre thinkingoh noan artistI thought this was a presentation about design or data visualization.

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skeptic

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But its okay. Cause Im also a designer. In fact, I am part of a design collective called Skeptic, based in Boston.

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skeptic.al

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You can find more info at skeptic.al. I swore Id never make the joke again about not using an Albanian domain name. So Ill leave it at that.

@GabiSchazin

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Im also an academic. Or, at least, an aspiring one.

@GabiSchazin

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But as a designer, I am quite familiar with Edward Tuftes work. How many of you have heard of Edward Tufte? Ok. And how many of you actually know him, like, personally? Ok, well, lets just keep this between us, because if this shit gets back to him, that could be trouble for me.

@GabiSchazin

A Brief Outline

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Now, I realize that The Tyranny of Edward Tufte is a pretty loaded title. The truth is, I was alarmed by Tuftes reaction to the NSA revelations this summer and Im going to go through that in some detail, but throughout the next 35 minutes or so, hes really going to act as a straw man for an argument based more on our cultural privileging of data over discourse and what that means to our subjectivity. Im going to show you why the tweets are an extremely important paradigmatic indication of information designs dangers.

@GabiSchazin
Ill review some important historical figures in the information design field and also review some of the criticism which has been levied to this point on information designcriticism I think falls short. Ill finish up by offering some ways that a proposed cultural interrogation of the infographic might go and how I think we can use the products of that interrogation to break datas privilege.

Edward Tufte

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In 1983, Tuftean economist, statistician, and sculptor based out of Yalepublished his first book, The Visual Display of Quantitative Information (recently released in Spanish, as well). It presents a thorough overview of the history of information design and proposes a set of principles to be used in effective graphics which maintain the integrity of their respective data. Since the publication of Visual Display, Tufte has built up an empire of self-published work and self-orchestrated seminars.

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The New York Times noted in 1998 that,

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his skills seem uniquely suited to the moment: he knows how to turn seas of information into navigableeven scenicwaterways.

@GabiSchazin

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You may recognize Sparklines small intense, simple, word-sized graphic with typographic resolution meant to integrate the visual representation of data into text-based narrative. These and other mechanisms have made him a mainstay in the information design field, providing him the opportunity to have significant influence over the way corporations and government organizations present data.

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So anyway, I went to one of his one-day courses back in 2011.

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And, you know, it was okay. Im sure at least a few of you have been to them. For my understanding of the world at the time, it all made total sense. And I got all four books as part of the registration and got to meet him. He signed one of my books. Very exciting.

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My Experience
Andy Ryan

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So then, about a year later, I was taking a class at the MIT Media Labs Center for Civic Media called Networked Social Movements.

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My professor, Sasha Costanza-Chock tasked us with comparing an element of Occupy with another social movement and I chose the anti-SOPA/anti-PIPA protests.

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And it was actually during a panel at SXSW called Why Doesnt Congress Grok The Internet? when it occurred to me

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that I had seen a lot of infographics floating around trying to educate people on the various sides involved in each movement. I wondered if there was a way to evaluate themcompare and contrast their visual elements, measure their strength somehow.

@GabiSchazin

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So I went to my trusty bookshelf and I started paging through Tuftes books and aligning what I saw in various infographics with his six principles of analytical design. But that just felt cheap. Like, Im going to just choose this one guy who happens to have a huge influence on what we do today without contextualizing that choice.

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Historical Figures

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I realized I needed a stronger grounding on the guys who came before Tufte.

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So I went through these other guys. Not just the ones who had used information graphics like William Playfair in 1786

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or Jon Snow in 1854. These are favorites of Tuftes and others when talking about the first examples of information design.

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But Im talking about the ones who were doing more than just visualizing dataI mean the ones developing their own information design methodologies or philosophies and telling everyone about it.

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Willard Cope Brintons 1914 Graphic Methods for Presenting Fact (published by The Engineering Magazine Company) is an extensive guide to the formal considerations of information design. Its also available in full on archive.org, as its in the public domain.

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Also, he dedicated the book to his mother. Which is awesome.

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Anyway, Brinton places strong emphasis on the benefits of presenting facts in a clear and interesting manner and he even prepares information designers for the eventual virality of their work:

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Charts which present new or especially interesting facts are very frequently copied by many magazines.

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Brinton goes on to follow his 30-point checklist for graphic presentations and

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25-point set of rules for presenters with a final reminder:

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When graphic methods are more widely used for portraying quantitative facts, there will be a tremendous gain to accuracy of thought as well as a great saving of that most valuable thing in the worldtime

@GabiSchazin

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Next up is Otto Neurath, a founding member of the Vienna Circles logical positivist movement. He believed that the expression of fact was of utmost importance, especially in a Europe having recently been ravaged by World War I. During his tenure as director of various local museums in Leipzig and Vienna, Neurath designed exhibits for citizens that explained statistics and policies about local communities and their various economic and social concerns. Confounded by the complexities of expressing statistical knowledge through verbal language and the rules which accompany it, Neurath turned to a system of pictograms, designed and arranged (sometimes alongside written language) with a logic he felt unattainable through words alone. These pictograms addressed, too, his struggle to convey relevant information in a clear manner, to be consumed and understood by an international audiencea de- babelzation of sorts.

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Neurath eventually titled this mode of information transfer the International System Of TYpographic Picture Education, or Isotype. Neurath set out to take on the practicalities of building Isotype into a truly international language (all the while dodging the oppressive regimes of the pre-World War II nations of Europe) by building a team of designers

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most notably of whom, Gerd Arntz, had significant influence on the eventual look and feel of

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Isotypes famous wood cut aesthetic.

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Neuraths system was built around the premise that language exists as an object tied to nature, though still formed by the observer of this nature. This belief can be explicitly seen in Isotypes strong emphasis on the role of what Neurath called the transformer. As Robin Kinross writes in his book of the same name,

@GabiSchazin

Neurath developed the notion of transformer to describe the process of analysing, selecting, ordering, and then making visual some information, data, ideas, implications.

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Neurath developed the notion of transformer to describe the process of analysing, selecting, ordering, and then making visual some information, data, ideas, implications.

@GabiSchazin

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This process was a detailed one, with the transformer working with stakeholders and subject matter experts, gaining a strong understanding of an issue before building the Isotype pictograms to represent it. This included considering the audience of the language and what symbols would better resonate with them.

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When a disciple of Neuraths, Rudolph Modley, took his knowledge of Isotype to the United States in the 1930s and 1940s, he opted not to include the role of transformer. Instead, his goal was to reach as broad an audience as possible by bringing, for example, the pictograms to school children as symbol sheets. In doing so, he alienated Neurath.

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Because Neurath knew that by closely controlling the production of his books and posters, his Transformer (in many cases, it was his wife, Marie) would ensure the proper message was being communicated. Here you can see some of Maries sketches after she met with key stakeholders during a diagrams development. Of course, some may argue that the closed nature of the system is what led to Isotypes eventual fading into obscurity.

@GabiSchazin

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Though next time you look at a handicapped parking space or bathroom symbol, you can think of Gerd Arntz. (At MassArt, we always appreciate a bit of typography humor.)

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The work of Nigel Holmes as an explanation designer (a moniker he gave himself) is characterized by an embellishment of data graphics as well as a consideration for the fashionable techniques of the time.

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An illustrator by training, Holmes defined the infographic style of Time Magazine from the late 1970s through to the mid-1990s, when a press without photographic access to the front-lines of the Gulf War sought out ways to accompany their war related news with graphics features.

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He is an outspoken proponent of constructing engaging infographics with more than simple graphs and charts. Tufte calls his stuff Chart junk.

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Brinton shows up in Tuftes books once in a weird table about

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chartjunky graphics

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And you wont find any mention of Neurath, though there is a reference on Tuftes site which came from a contributor. Anyway. This is all to say that I discovered this whole world of guys who were very strong predecessors to Tufte. Important figures to understand, mostly because of the difference between them and Tufte. So I started thinking a bit biggerabout the field of information design as a whole. About the way both a designer approaches her understanding of that field and also where the purpose of visualizing data plays into all of this.

@GabiSchazin

The Tweets

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But before I get to that, I think its about time I got to the tweetsafter all, thats why were here and Im already 45 slides in. So lets do that.

@GabiSchazin

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When news of the NSAs secret PRISM program broke on June 6, Dr. Edward Tufte was one of the countless Twitter users to post a link to the Washington Posts coverage on his stream. He, like many others, expressed his negative feelings: Dreadful spy-PRISM deck sets new record for most header logos per slide: 13. A few minutes later,

@GabiSchazin

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he noted that the List of spy- PRISM collected information includes nearly everything, except PPT decks. No useful information at all? His final public-facing tweet of the night reads,

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PRISM providers: classic PPT statistical graphic: 13 logos, 10 numbers, 9 bubbles, 1 giant green arrow. and included the hashtag #powerpoint.

@GabiSchazin

Taken by MrMiscellanious, released under the PD via Wikimedia Commons.

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Tufte, of course, should have no reservations using the #powerpoint hashtag and doing so with authority: among the consulting gigs he can list on his resum sits a 2003 stint with NASA on technical presentations for shuttle risk assessments, shuttle engineering, and deep spaceflight trajectories.

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NASA

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His expertise was sought after the organization deemed internal communication processes partly at fault for the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster: the high risk of burn-up during reentry was outlined in a PowerPoint presentation given by a team of Boeing engineers after debris caused damage to the shuttles wing during lift-off, but the risk was disregarded by higher-ups. Tuftes conclusionthat a technical document,

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rather than a slide deck laden with a bureaucracy of bullets, would have been more effective in saving the lives of the astronauts on board

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led him to pen his 2006 essay, The Cognitive Style of PowerPoint: Pitching Out Corrupts Within. Described by the author as notorious, it presents a scathing critique of Microsofts slideshow creation software and has since been cited by at least hundreds of others

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(747 times, according to Google Scholar).

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The day after the PRISM story broke, Tufte posted again, this time opting to link to The Guardians coverage: Ridiculous Prism PPTdeck [sic] surfaces serious issues about the government character. Now, it seemed, he was ready to present his judgement on more than just the visuals leaked by NSA contractor turned whistle-blower Edward Snowdenthis time, Tufte was upset with the way the government was behaving.

@GabiSchazin

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And who could blame him? As details about what PRISM enabled the government to collect, store, and analyze emerged, it became clear that it is time for a public discussion about the true state of our privacy in an always-on, always-connected worldmuch like the discussion occurring here at SouthBy.

@GabiSchazin

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Yet, Tufte still could not resist referring to the NSAs PowerPoint slides. His tweets about the dreadful deck began making the rounds, posted on sites such as tech-focused Mashable and

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the Washington Posts Wonkblog.

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Eventually, one enterprising designer, Emiland De Cubber took it upon himself to redesign the presentation altogether.

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His new deck offers a clean, modernist approach to the notorious PRISM slides: complete with iconography from The Noun Project, a cool, toned down color scheme, and logical slide builds which outline the progress of PRISM over the past six years.

@GabiSchazin

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The tone of the copy is probably a bit more sardonic than that which you would find on any official NSA work (regarding the $20 million budget, De Cubber offers, its worth it. Come on, thats a lot of data.)

@GabiSchazin

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and the presentation finishes off with a self- promotion for his services as a freelance slide designer

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(according to a tweet from the designer, he has received more offers for work than he has time to respond to, let alone take on)

@GabiSchazin

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But De Cubbers version of the slides also begins with an admission that the NSA can do whatever [they] want with [his] data.

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@GabiSchazin

But not with [his] eyes. And what will they do with his data (and its fair to assume they have itthe NSA has since claimed that they are only targeting foreigners; De Cubber is a Frenchman based in Paris)?

1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6.

Comparisons Causality, Mechanism, Structure, Explanation Multivariate Analysis Integration of Evidence Documentation Content Counts Most of All

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Well, if the NSA analysts in charge of making sense of De Cubbers data have read Tuftes fourth book, Beautiful Evidence, then they will take into consideration his six principles of analytical design

@GabiSchazin

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And even though they are dealing with the virtual trails of faceless human beings, they will have also read in Beautiful Evidence that

@GabiSchazin

Evidence is evidence...the intellectual tasks remain constant regardless of the mode of evidence: to understand to reason about the materials at hand, and to appraise their quality, relevance, and integrity.

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Evidence is evidence...the intellectual tasks remain constant regardless of the mode of evidence: to understand to reason about the materials at hand, and to appraise their quality, relevance, and integrity.

@GabiSchazin

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And after theyve made sure that their charts and graphs are proportional, that their sources are cited, and that their comparisons are clear, then they will present it to their higher-ups who, in turn, will take part in what Tufte calls

@GabiSchazin

intense seeing, the wide-eyed observing that generates empirical information.

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intense seeing, the wide-eyed observing that generates empirical information. But first they will continue to collect the data, because if they dont, there is no intense seeing to be done.

@GabiSchazin

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Tuftes rise to subject-matter expert has been built on convincing people that data is true when its presented with quality, relevance, and integrity. So he tells people how to do just that. Never mind that they may become so hungry to do so that they begin to monitor our digital activity

@GabiSchazin

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look at that silly green arrow!

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Throughout his four main books, Tuftes focus is on making sure that data is presented empiricallynot confused or muddled or hidden, but communicated effectively so that it is understood, consumed, and, perhaps, acted-on.

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A better cognitive style for presentations is neededa style that respects, encourages, and cooperates with evidence and thought.

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A better cognitive style for presentations is needed, he concludes at the end of the PowerPoint essay, a style that respects, encourages, and cooperates with evidence and thought. Evidence and thought, but not reflection.

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Reflection

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So. Whats so important about the opportunity for reflection?

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In our current state of technological forms of life, argues Scott Lash in Critique of Information,

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information shrinks or compresses metanarratives to a mere point, a signal, a mere event in time

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information shrinks or compresses metanarratives to a mere point, a signal, a mere event in time.

@GabiSchazin

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Narrative and discourse have given way to the very byte-like message

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[No longer room for] the sort of legitimating argument that you are presented with in a discourse, [and power, which] was once largely discursiveis now largely informational

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there is no longer room for the sort of legitimating argument that you are presented with in a discourse and power, which was once largely discursive...is now largely informational; when speed and brevity become qualities of communication which are heralded above such forms as narrative and discourse, the parties who either store or convey the most information in the shortest amount of time also hold the greatest amount of power.

@GabiSchazin

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Tufte, to be fair, does not seem to condone the behavior of the NSA. A number of posts on his site seem to be wary of the way search engines or corporations collect our data (be it meta or otherwise) without our knowledge, and his recent tweets do not suggest he feels any differently about PRISM.

@GabiSchazin

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Though, oddly, he hasnt posted anything on his site about the NSA recently. Four results.

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I could not tell you when they were posted, because he includes no date stamps. I suppose I could try to contribute something, but getting on the site is harder than getting a SXSW panel.

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According to the site

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About 30% of submitted contributions are posted; after publication, about half survive the occasional reviews of published items. But, like I said, were being fair here. I havent tried to contribute. And Tufte never explicitly supports the illegal collection of data.

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He probably agrees with danah boyd when she notes that

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whats at stake has to do with how power is employed, by whom, and in what circumstances.

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But as the da Vinci of data (a moniker bestowed upon him by the New York Times), he should know that the power is employed here through not only the collection of data as evidence, but also the eventual presentation of that data as truth through information design.

@GabiSchazin

Criticism

So where does the current state of criticism surrounding information design stand?

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Well, The appeal of information design, write design theorists, Jessica Helfand and William Drenttel, is that it offers instant credibility...[it] is rational and authoritative, classified and controlled to within an inch of its life: everything in its place and a place for every thing. Label it information design and it looks serious. Number it and it looks scientific.

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But its a false authority, they continue, particularly because we buy into the form so unquestioningly. ... Information design has become its own legitimizing force, regardless of its content or context. Its modernism run amok: form masquerading as content.

@GabiSchazin

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You know, Helfand and Drenttel are right: this IS modernism run amok. And it is a false authority. But when they write that, theyre not pissed about it like Im pissed about it. Theyre pissed about it cause theyre designers in a design studio and they dont like what this lab chic as they call it is doing to the studio. For example, they question design educations role in this:

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why is it a scientific aesthetic that they have embraced, especially considering a weak understanding of the field of science itself? But they never doubt why designers are turning to a scientific aesthetic. Theyre never wondering what is so effective, so seductive about the form. Thats what I struggle with. How can we better understand the infographics defacto status as a representation of truth? A status that threatens the value of discursive power in favor of informational.

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An Example

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And heres an example of that in action. Im not sure how many of you have heard of a company called Shape, Inc.

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MIT Institute for Universal Knowledge & Understanding


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Shape, Inc. Is a corporation spun off from the MIT Institute for Universal Knowledge and Understanding: a group at the Media Lab charged with the mission of giving humans the tools to better appreciate one another, specifically through the accurate dissemination of ones values and belief systems. Some of the worlds finest data scientists paired with equally as talented information designers spent years figuring out how to communicate visually what would otherwise take countless hours to understand.

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New Shape is a 3D object, completely independent from any broadcast medium or channel.

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You just need a small magnet implanted in each of your shoulders, and the form will float above your shoulder of choosing, ever morphing to the inputs and outputs that affect who you are.

@GabiSchazin

So to clarify, this company is proposing, in essence, a 3D infographic. It pays attention to the things you say, the things you hear, the things you do, the things you eat, where you eat, how you eat. This is self-quantification taken to the next level: its self communication. When you have a shape with you, you can be understood.

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If you go to shape-inc.com, you can watch a video about the product, which I will play for you now.

@GabiSchazin

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Video can be found at: https://vimeo.com/57235084

@GabiSchazin

YOU. UNDERSTOOD.
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Ok. Who here has heard of Shape, Inc. before. Ok, now put your hand down if you know me. Ok. None of you have heard of it because its fake. I made it up. Im sorry. Because, like I said, Im an artist. Shape, Inc. is an art piece. Ugggggh. Art.

SHAPE-INC.COM

@GabiSchazin

Building A Provocation

YOUTOPIA.

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But its art that looks like designit uses the language of experience to build a provocation.

SHAPE-INC.COM

@GabiSchazin

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In fact, as part of the project, I decided to start throwing these Shape, Inc. stickers all over town (and dont worry, I have more for you)

@GabiSchazin

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Also, I took that last photo a couple of months ago. In true Boston fashionthe entire sign is just sitting in a pile of black snow right now. Which pretty much represents everything I love about Boston.

@GabiSchazin

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Anyway, I also put up some posters. Theres a wall in Cambridge that allows graffiti, so I figured that would be a good place to start. My wife prefers I not get arrested.

@GabiSchazin

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So my colleague Fish McGill and I go and were putting up these 50 Shape, Inc. posters and we get heckled. Ill play you a quick clip of this guy coming up to us and yelling at me.

@GabiSchazin

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Video can be found at: https://vimeo.com/80705087#t=4m3s

@GabiSchazin

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I was then searching around Twitter afterwards and sure enough, someone was pretty pissed about this artwhich looked very much like corporate advertising

@GabiSchazin

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And of course, the next day, they were torn down.

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But I ALSO got an email on the website! This dude is psyched! He cant wait for the product to launch.

@GabiSchazin

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This is a very very small piece and a very very small start. But it IS a start. Its absurd. And its weird. And I honestly hope it is not predictive. But its an example of how I propose to inspire a dialogue about the hegemonic properties of information designs aestheticby garnering affect. Getting people to react. To want to know more. To ask questions.

@GabiSchazin

Cultural Interrogation

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At the heart of my work is a proposed cultural interrogation of the infographic that is, a real examination of the form and its reductive and seductive qualities.

@GabiSchazin

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This might happen through the lens of people like Ian Hacking, who sees statistics as part of a

@GabiSchazin

great bureaucratic machinerythinking[ing] of itself as providing only information, but it is itself part of the technology of power in a modern state.

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great bureaucratic machinerythinking[ing] of itself as providing only information, but it is itself part of the technology of power in a modern state.

@GabiSchazin

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In his 1980 essay entitled How should we do the history of statistics? he writes of an avalanche of numbers, about the shaping of the character of social facts by statistics.

@GabiSchazin

The erosion of determinism and the taming of chance by statistics does not introduce a new libertyThe argument that indeterminism creates a place for free will is a hollow mockery.

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The erosion of determinism and the taming of chance by statistics does not introduce a new liberty, he writes. The argument that indeterminism creates a place for free will is a hollow mockery.

@GabiSchazin

The bureaucracy of statistics imposes not just by creating administrative rulings but by determining classifications within which people must think of themselves and of the actions that are open to them.

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The bureaucracy of statistics imposes not just by creating administrative rulings but by determining classifications within which people must think of themselves and of the actions that are open to them.

@GabiSchazin

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An interrogation of the relationship between the infographic and the subject, through the lens of semiotics, would also seek to understand how the form constructs meaning.

@GabiSchazin

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So using Roland Barthes connotative operations of information designs various aesthetic properties may be useful. Basicallythough not doing the theory justiceBarthes argues that connotation, or what meaning you derive from a word, symbol, image, etc, connotation always happens. You can never simply see something for what it is.

@GabiSchazin

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So while I dont seek to argue the reliability of the data upon which these graphs were drawn, I absolutely think they hold connotative meanings beyond simply numbers. Gold bar charts accentuate the representation of wealth, red lines represent the flat-lining of wages. Metrics related to size, proportion, areathese are all connotative operations, and I think they are worth a much deeper understanding.

@GabiSchazin

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We could also look to Lacans mirror stage. Thats been an invaluable and oft-used concept for the development of film studies theories, particularly in its connection between a sense of longing, or lack, felt by the viewer and the satisfaction provided by the film. If our infographic viewers are drawn to visuals that lay out a seemingly decisive argument, maybe the infographics scientific aesthetic satiates a dearth of stability or sureness in our lives.

@GabiSchazin

Florian Hirzinger

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Or maybe we try to understanding the infographic as technologically enabled object. While the history of the form traces back to well before the invention of the personal computer or Internetas Ive already pointed out heretechnology has enabled the forms rise to prominence from the perspective of both ability and necessity.

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Technological advances have put the tools to mine and visualize dataonce requiring powerful computing hardware and complex software packagesinto the hands of the lay-designer.

@GabiSchazin

#Tuftyranny
And the proliferation of automatically collected data throughout society has turned the organization of this data into a necessity.

@GabiSchazin

#Tuftyranny
So maybe we use Jonathan Crarys Techniques of the Observera piece that focuses on the ways that the camera obscura changed the way we perceived our world. Perhaps we now require a scientific-looking argument before were willing to assign any validity to a discursive position?

@GabiSchazin

#Tuftyranny
Or we could go back to Scott Lash. In Global Culture Industry, which he wrote with Celia Lury, they emphasize the concept of play when considering our understanding of the ways in which we exist and interact with todays cultural objects. The two also offer that contemporary culture produces objects that should be understood both for their simulacra and inventive nature. So an object of visual culture produced to be perceived as based on highly complicated data-sets, with viral distribution in mind, could be understood with the same simultaneity.

@GabiSchazin

Theory + Practice

#Tuftyranny
No matter what approach we take, thoughthe infographics power is in its visuals. And so its so important that this interrogation be one that involves both theoretical and practical elements.

@GabiSchazin

#Tuftyranny
James Carey, in his 1990 essay, Communication As Culture, writes that

@GabiSchazin

Things can become so familiar, that we no longer perceive them at all. Art, however, can take the texture of a fabric, the design of a face, and wrench these ordinary phenomena out of the backdrop of existence and force them into the foreground of consideration.

#Tuftyranny
Things can become so familiar, that we no longer perceive them at all. Art, however, can take the texture of a fabric, the design of a face, and wrench these ordinary phenomena out of the backdrop of existence and force them into the foreground of consideration.

@GabiSchazin

#Tuftyranny
As I see it today, information designs effortless permeation as de facto representation of what is true thanks to a culturally hegemonic privileging of scientific fact, numbers, and data over meaning making through discourse has become an ordinary phenomenon, one that the majority of us are not questioning.

@GabiSchazin

We Need More Provocations


#Tuftyranny
We need more provocations. So. Where do those provocations come from? Well, I think they could come from a lot of places. But Ill tell you where Id like to start.

@GabiSchazin

#Tuftyranny
Two years ago I was sitting in a panel at SXSW called The Moral Psychology and Big Data SingularityI was excited. Here was a guy that was going to talk about how we feel about all this data being collected. Which was a gross misread of the session description.

@GabiSchazin

#Tuftyranny
What I actually got was a 45 minute lecture from a researcher at USC on how companies and scientists alike are able to predict what kind of food youd like based on how you voteand a bunch of other things about you. So I got up and asked a question. Ill play you back the audio. Audio can be found here: http://www.gaboosh.com/sxsw2014/MoralPsychologyAudio_trimmed.m4a No. I dont think thats right. I dont think the academy is the place for that. I think the academy is the place from whence a provocation comes. Where we

@GabiSchazin
wrench these ordinary phenomena out of the backdrop of existence and force them into the foreground of consideration. And I dont want you to say but its fact or because, science!

This Is The Holy Grail of Manipulative Form


#Tuftyranny
The infographic isnt popular because it is true. It is popular because it is seductive. It just so happens to be purported as true. And thats the danger. Were sucked in and we believe it and that is the holy grail of manipulative form. Its important to understand why. This is why we need a cultural interrogation of the form. Because in healthy discursive spaces, every position has a counter position. Im not here to tell you that I do or do not think the infographic should be made. I honestly do not know the answer to that. And as a practitioner and theorist, this is

@GabiSchazin
usually the part of the presentation when I reach an existential crisis. And I pay a guy back in Boston $20 twice a week to deal with that. My goal is to take this to a PhD program that will let me combine visual practice with visual theory. If I can do that, maybe Ill be back here in a few years with a more insightful answer to that question. But I do know that we need to change the way we study it and think about it and understand it.

#Tuftyranny
You know, I was looking through my notes from that Tufte seminar and I saw this. Its a bit faded as its written in pencilfor you youngsters, thats kinda like SnapChat but it takes a little longer and sometimes you have to sharpen it.

@GabiSchazin

#Tuftyranny
It says that information designers must work with the spirit of inquiry, defined by Tufte as whatever it takes to explain something. What a disappointing statement. Whatever it takes to explain something. Like spying on our emails or text messages. I dont know. The way I prefer to explain something is by talking. And listening. And questioning. And so I hope you leave here today willing to question how power is exercised over us through the use of the scientific aesthetic. We need to build provocations that

@GabiSchazin
break that power. And that cant be done without a better understanding of why it does to us what it does.

Thanks.
gaboosh.com/tufte_survey
Works cited available upon request.

#Tuftyranny
Thank you.

@GabiSchazin

Works Cited & Suggested Reading Adam, Aston. Tuftes Invisible Yet Ubiquitous Influence. Businessweek 10 June 1999: n. pag. Web. 17 Apr. 2012. <http:// www.businessweek.com/stories/2009-06-10/ tuftes-invisible-yet-ubiquitous-influencebusinessweek-business-news-stock- market-and-financial-advice>. Bateman, Scott, Regan L. Mandryk, Carl Gutwin, Aaron Genest, David McDine, and Christopher Brooks. Useful Junk? The Effects of Visual Embellishment on Comprehension and Memorability of Charts. Proc. of CHI 2010, Atlanta, GA. N.p.: n.p., 2010. N. pag. Bryson, Norman, and Michael Ann. Holly. Visual Theory: Painting and Interpretation. New York, NY: HarperCollins, 1991. Burchell, Graham, Colin Gordon, and Michel Foucault. The Foucault Effect: Studies in Governmentality. London:Harvester, Wheatsheaf, 1991. Carey, James W. Communication as Culture: Essays on Media and Society. New York: Routledge, 1992. Crary, Jonathan. Techniques of the Observer: On Vision and Modernity in the Nineteenth Century. Cambridge (Mass.): MIT, 1990. Dewey, John. Art as Experience. New York: Berkley Pub. Group, 2005. Drenttel, William, and Jessica Helfand. Wonders Revealed: Design and Faux Science. (n.d.): n. pag. 14 Oct. 2002. Web. 16 Apr. 2012. <http://chapters.aiga.org/resources/ content/1/9/1/3/documents/AIGA_Clear_Wonders_Revealed.pdf>. Dunne, Anthony. Hertzian Tales: Electronic Products, Aesthetic Experience, and Critical Design. Cambridge, MA: MIT, 2008. Flusser, Vilm, and Andreas Strhl. Writings. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, 2002. Flusser, Vilm. Towards a Philosophy of Photography. London: Reaktion, 2000. Foucault, Michel, Mauro Bertani, Alessandro Fontana, and David Macey. Society Must Be Defended: Lectures at the Collge De France, 1975-76. New York: Picador, 2003. Foucault, Michel. The Order of Things: An Archaeology of the Human Sciences. New York: Vintage, 1994. Frascara, Jorge. Graphic Design: Fine Art or Social Science? Design Issues 5.1 (1988): 18-29. Greeley, Robin A. Richard Duardos Aztln Poster: Interrogating Cultural Hegemony in Graphic Design. Design Issues 14.1 (1998): 21-34. Hacking, Ian. The Taming of Chance. Cambridge, England: Cambridge UP, 1990.

Hardt, Michael, and Antonio Negri. Empire. Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 2000. Lash, Scott, and Celia Lury. Global Culture Industry: The Mediation of Things. Cambridge: Polity, 2007. Lash, Scott. Critique of Information. London: SAGE, 2002. Lash, Scott. Intensive Culture: Social Theory, Religion and Contemporary Capitalism. Los Angeles: SAGE, 2010. Latour, Bruno, and Peter Weibel. Making Things Public: Atmospheres of Democracy. Cambridge, MA: MIT, 2005. Law, John, Et Al. ed. Special Issue On The Social Life of Methods. Spec. Issue Of Theory Cultural & Society 30.4 (2013). Manovich, Lev. The Language of New Media. Cambridge, MA: MIT, 2002. Margolin, Victor. Design Discourse: History, Theory, Criticism. Chicago: University of Chicago, 1989. McLuhan, Marshall. Understanding Media; the Extensions of Man. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1964. Mulvey, Laura. Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema. Film Theory and Criticism : Introductory Readings. Eds. Leo Braudy and Marshall Cohen. New York: Oxford UP, 1999: 833-44. Nealon, Andrew. Media and Materiality 2010. Words in Space. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Sept. 2010. <http://wordsinspace.net/2010/ Fall/mediamateriality/?p=169>. Neurath, Marie, and Robin Kinross. The Transformer: Principles of Making Isotype Charts. London: Hyphen, 2009. Neurath, Otto. International Picture Language; the First Rules of Isotype. London: K. Paul, Trench, Trubner &, 1936. Oliver, Lisa A. Artful Visions: Aesthetic Possibility and Social Transformation in Zizek, Hardt and Negri, Foucault, and the New Relational Art. Thesis. Brown University, 2011. Providence, RI: n.p., 2011. Ong, Walter Jackson. Orality and Literacy. London: Routledge, 2002. Postman, Neil. Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology. New York: Vintage, 1993. Silverman, Kaja. The Subject of Semiotics. New York: Oxford UP, 1983. Rancire, Jacques. Contemporary Art and the Politics of Aesthetics. Communities of Sense: Rethinking Aesthetics and Politics. Ed. Beth Hinderliter, Et Al. Durham: Duke UP, 2009. 31-47. Shapley, Deborah. The Da Vinci of Data. The New York Times. N.p., 30 Mar. 1998. Web. 26 Apr. 2012. <http://nytimes. com/1998/03/30/business/the-da-vinci-of-data. html>.

Tufte, Edward R. Beautiful Evidence. Cheshire, CT: Graphics, 2006. Tufte, Edward R. Envisioning Information. Cheshire, CT: Graphics, 1991. Tufte, Edward R. The Visual Display of Quantitative Information. 2nd ed. Cheshire, CT: Graphics, 2001. Tufte, Edward R. Evidence and Narrative. Cheshire, CT: Graphics, 2010. Wodiczko, Krzysztof. Critical Vehicles: Writings, Projects, Interviews. Cambridge, MA: MIT, 1999.