Stephen Few’s capstone entitled “Infovis as Seen by the World Out There: 2007 in Review” managed to paint a vivid picture of how outsiders see infovis. The balance isn’t very positive, being peppered with misconceptions. Steve guided us through a scary litany of examples, starting with information-starved, 3Dish business dashboards. He also revieed the four main sources of exposure people have to infovis these days: blogs, the media, books, and the “visualiti” (visualization celebrities.) Even though the current state of affairs is far from ideal, he finds that the future is more promising.
He revealed that blogs’ coverage of infovis is a mixed blessing. While popular blog sites such as Smashing Magazine have attempted to introduce their readers to the state of the art in data visualization, such articles often highlight poor examples of visualization (think shiny, 3Dish business charts again). A particularly bad example is the “periodic table of visualization methods” which, as he pointed out, utilizes a metaphor (the periodic table of the elements) that carries absolutely no relation to the content of the information it displays.
Steve wasn’t too keen on a lot of the media and publishing attention infovis has been getting lately. Of note was his disenchantment with Edward Tufte’s latest book “Beautiful Evidence.”