Frontiers of

Computational Journalism
Columbia Journalism School
Week 7: Visualization
November 4, 2015

CS

Data

Reporting

CS

Data

CS

CS

CS

Reporting

CS

Data

CS

Effects

Filtering

CS

Reporting

visualization most commonly
here

User

This class
Four ways of looking at visualization:
• Perception
• Tasks
• Design
• Narrative

Perception

Topic links in Gödel, Escher, Bach

“Visualization allows people to offload cognition to the
perceptual system, using carefully designed images as a
form of external memory.
The human visual system is a very high-bandwidth
channel to the brain, with a significant amount of
processing occurring in parallel and at the pre-conscious
level.”
- Tamara Munzner

Pop-Out Effects

Visual Comparisons

length

size

orientation

color

...plus number, shape, relative motion, and much more

Basic idea of visualization:
Turn something you want to find
into something you can see
without thinking about it

clusters

outliers

extents

correlations

Tasks

Design Study Methodology: Reflections from the Trenches and the Stacks, Sedlmair et al, 2012

Inward and Outward Gran Challenges for Visualization, Tamara Munzner

A multi-level typology of abstract visualization tasks, Brehmer & Munzner

A multi-level typology of abstract visualization tasks, Brehmer & Munzner

Design

Graphic Design Principles
• Visual hierarchy
• Color
• Typography
• Whitespace
• Sketching

Visual Hierarchy

Sketching
The way to make a good visualization is to try lots of
ideas quickly.

Draw the user in
• User won‘t explore deeply if they don’t learn
something immediately.
• What does the user learn in
o
o
o
o

1 second
5 seconds
1 minute
5 minutes

How do you know if your design is good?

Usability testing
• Metrics tell you if there is a problem, but they don‘t
tell you why.
• There is no substitute for watching your users
interact with your work.
• Basic technique is “think aloud.” Ask the user to say
what they are thinking while they use your story.

Narrative

Editorial choice in visualization
• Data
o

what data is chosen, what omitted, which sources

• Visual representation
o

encoding from data to picture

• Annotations
o highlighting, text, sequence

• Interactivity
o order of presentation, what user can alter

Visualization isn’t “objective,” but that doesn’t mean you can’t mislead.
(Is this graph misleading?)

Another misleading graph.

Sequential Narrative

What’s Really Warming The World?, Bloomberg

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