Data, data, everywhere, nor any bit to use: copyleft havens in the information sea.
Aymeric Mansoux Piet Zwart Institute, Rotterdam, and Goldsmiths, University of London
As graphic designers often remind us, information is beautiful.  Combined with the plethora of programmable design tools available today and the ever-growing quantity of data available online, processing anything into gorgeous graphics and animations is increasingly easy.
Looking at the ancestors of these modes of representation, we might have difficulty imagining that one day pie charts and monochrome histograms would escape the realm of office meetings, scientific papers and management tools, to reach out to a broader and sexier audience gathered in the many communities of data visualization fans. Of course, plots and graphs software in office tools are still as dull as they were the first day of their creation, but they make it to the covers of many glossy magazines, just like fashion models and celebrities.
This success did not happen overnight; it is the result of the increasing electronic mediation that exists when we produce and consume information. In essence, data visualization is so versatile and flexible that it becomes almost meaningless; it is used in media to engage an audience in just about any topic. Indeed, pretty much anything can be represented by anything, and it does not always matter if it makes sense or not as long as it looks good – extra points granted if it’s animated, even more if you can interact with it. Because any set of data can be mapped and represented into any other complex visual representation, the question of sense, interpretation, and usefulness is bypassed by the powerful illustrative value of the visualization.
1. David McCandless, Information is Beautiful: The Information Atlas (New York: Collins, 2010).
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