With a trail of psychology lingering behind me as I move forward in the field of informatics and data visualization, I am often asked the question… “What does psychology have to do with all of this stuff anyways?” Great question!
So let me explain a bit about my background. I have a bachelor’s degree in general psychology, a master’s degree in counseling psychology, and an educational specialist degree in counseling psychology. For all intents and purposes, I could sit for a licensure in counseling psychology, but I chose a different route.
I also have an interest in art (my undergraduate minor) and love to learn about technology. I was offered a great opportunity to gain the educational aspect of life and enter into an interdisciplinary PhD in Education Sciences. What this means is that I research and learn under educational leadership faculty at the University of Kentucky and am able to use my past education and skills to develop the field of educational informatics.
So how do I use psychology? Well, there are multiple ways. One way is understanding how humans interact with technology. There are classes and books written on this topic, and it gives evidence to the intersection between psychology and information. A lot of the visualization aspect deals with what is easiest for not just one person to understand, but the general public to comprehend. Anything from color schemes to simplicity of design play a factor in how an individual perceives and understands the data. Psychology plays a role in all of the above.
Past this simple explanation, many other “higher-level” qualities of psychology can be incorporated into the field. I enjoy furthering conversations around this topic area and will continue to push the understanding of educational informatics with the rich history and research embedded in the field of psychology.
Being an attendee at the American Evaluation Association, there is some talk about infographics, but it seems to be limited (obviously) to the Data Visualization and Reporting TIG. What are these practitioners and researchers saying about the infographics? Well… they are horrible. The creativity may be nice, but they are not practical. The data may be extensive, but remains deceiving and lacks simplicity. The design is intensive and initially captivating, but results in confusion and misunderstanding. More is not always better.
Are Infographics just a fad of our times? When looking at fads, we ask ourselves a very important question: Is “x” adding value to our field or society? So… are infographics adding value to the field of data visualization and/or informatics? Let’s say they are adding value for now. If so, then there needs to be an intentional effort to improve the quality, data, and visual aspects of the infographic. Along with citing the sources from which the data was acquired, there should be research and reasoning with why graphics are made. The infographic should not just be something that anyone can throw together. To improve the sustainability of a “tool” within the field of data visualization and informatics, the design and methodology of creating an infographic should be researched and taken seriously in terms of the following components:
Imagine a world where anyone and everyone are making infographics and there is a lack of quality to the content… lack of simplicity to the design… lack of understanding of data dissemination. As far as evaluators are concerned, this is the world we are living in today. There is software, self-proclaimed professionals, and free aid when it comes to the creation of infographics. Let’s make an effort to sustain infographics as a tool within the field of data visualization and not allow them to just be a fad of our times.
A colleague from Portugal contacted me a couple days ago with this very interesting infographic which talks about how the traditional classroom is being flipped. The biggest thing that popped out to me was the driving force behind flipping our classrooms: poor learning outcomes. WHY ARE WE STILL OPERATING UNDER THE SYSTEM OF OLD? For centuries, organizations, especially our schools have made changes based on poor learning outcomes. We have been waiting until a student fails (or drops out, in this case) before someone speaks up and says, “Oh, we should probably do something”.
I understand the saying, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. But let me tell you… if we are not constantly looking to grow, then we will continue to fall behind. The world does not stand still just because one educational infrastructure seems to be working at the moment. Let’s look at some organizations that have been able to sustain due to making changes prior to failing first. The New York Times continues to be on the cutting edge of everything! Between blogging, online newspaper, and now data journalism, The New York Times continues to lead the news industry. It has been on the “shelf” since 1851, and still receives over 30 million unique visitors per month on the website. JP Morgan Chase Bank has been going strong since 1799 and even in today’s economy, it has total assets of over $2 trillion and is the biggest bank in the nited States. And finally, Google. Enough said.
We need to keep pushing toward better schools and getting away from the attitude of “this is working fine”. Let’s develop the future rather than catch up with the past! Needless to say, this infographic spoke volumes to me and I hope it does the same for you.
Instead of making my own list of the best data visualizations in 2011, I have decided to compile a list of everyone else’s lists to expedite the process of searching through the Internet and RSS feeds for this information. By no means is this an exhaustive list, but… with the overlap in the included sites, I believe any more links and this post would be too much.
Best of 2011
Flowingdata - “The Best Data Visualization Projects of 2011″
Visual.ly – “20 Great Visualizations of 2011″
Co.design – “The 22 Best Infographics We Found in 2011″
Looking 4 Data Visualization – “Data Visualization in 2011 – A Recap”
Vimeo – “Visualizing 2011″
Data Journalism Year in Review
Washington Post – “The Year in Graphics”
New York Times – “New York Times Infographics”
Top Data Visualization Tools of 2011
Venkatesh Tech – “Data Visualization: 20+ Useful Tools and Resources”
BI Developments – “Top 5 Cool Data Visualization Tools”
Computer World – “22 Free Tools for Data Visualization and Analysis”
Degree Central - “17 Free Awesome Data Visualization Tools”
The “Other” Category
Feel free to comment with additions and I’ll throw them in the post. Thanks for a great year in data visualization