I’ve been taking John Stasko’s Information Visualization class this semester, and it already proved to be extremely valuable.  Prof. Stasko is a fantastic teacher, and his discussion and examples are always providing me with new concepts and fostering new ideas for my thesis.  The following occurred to me during a recent lecture.

Stasko was discussing how his views might vary somewhat from Tufte’s, who’s focus on minimalist design may sometimes interfere with analysis.  Stasko summed this up as a difference between “representational primacy” (Tufte) and “analytical primacy” (Stasko, et al), where the Tufte camp is focusing on representing the abstract data with the least amount of distortion or noise and the Stasko camp is concerned more with the allowing for clear analysis.  I feel this assumes there is something of a trade-off – that sometimes the “noise” is actually helpful for clear analysis.

Why stop with these two camps?  Where does Ben Fry and a more design-central form fall within this?  In my readings of and brief conversation with Ben Fry, I felt his goals were more rhetorical in nature.  His work focuses on leveraging graphic design principles to tell a story – all data is collected for a reason.

Is this this rhetorical focus is another “camp” to be included next to representation and analysis.   Perhaps “rhetorical primacy” could be added.  Where do the rhetorical choices occur in an info viz, a medium which is primarily concerned with exploration?  My feeling, at the moment, is that rhetoric is embedded into each step of the process: data collection, data transformation, interface design, graphic design, and even the platform on which it’s available (accessibility issues come to mind on this point).

I will further explore this in later posts.   I’m particularly interested about how these rhetorical choices have to be accounted for in journalistic endeavors.   How do data journalists maintain a level of transparency and guide their reader towards veracity and synthesis, an underlying problem of the CCPs construction.