Wednesday, 29 June 2016

the price of eggs in china

Via the ever brilliant Kottke we are treated to an excellent primer on the origins of data-visualizations: infographics ISOTYPEs as persuasive tools and encapsulating representations, the mapping of information beyond geography, began to come into their own in the early nineteenth century. Of course, in line with our inherent distrust of Big Data and opinion polls that can be leverage for any message whatsoever, statistics can be biased and incomplete and return a not-so-flattering composite, but being able to present analysis in a way that’s not just publicly-digestible and nearly intuitive but also can disabuse certain assumptions and specious causalities.
Since compendious research was first presented in this format by a gentleman economist and apprentice of steam-engine inventor James Watt, called William Playfair, champion of the infographic and in turn inventor of the pie-chart was able to illustrate the relation between wages and taxes or the true cost of importing commodities or these elegant so called “rose charts” drafted by pioneering nurse Florence Nightingale that conveyed the causes of death for soldiers in the Crimean War was far surpassed by poor sanitary conditions rather than combat—previsioning the germ theory of disease and infection, among many others, helped to dispel native prejudices and create a more informed public. Let’s hope that there’s still honesty in demographics and polarity, but such compiling of numbers outside of individual human experience does beg the question whether we developed this way to limn huge volumes of data—which is rather taken for granted, out of a need to communicate what does not fit to lay wisdom and perhaps common-sense or that we compile facts and figures to rarified levels in order to showcase our drawing talents.