Data visualization

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Last Update

  • Updated.jpg 7 November 2016


See also Altmetrics | Data literacy | Data management | Data management portal | Infographics | Information visualization | Skills in data visualization

" presentation can be beautiful, elegant and descriptive. There is a variety of conventional ways to visualize data - tables, histograms, pie charts and bar graphs are being used every day, in every project and on every possible occasion. However, to convey a message to your readers effectively, sometimes you need more than just a simple pie chart of your results. In fact, there are much better, profound, creative and absolutely fascinating ways to visualize data. Many of them might become ubiquitous in the next few years..." — Vitaly Friedman

Data visualization is (re)presentation of data where "information is abstracted in some form including the attributes or variables for the units of information". As a subcategory of information visualization. data visualization deals with a range of graphics, geographic and spatial data (e.g., thematic cartography). It also refers to techniques where images, diagrams or animations are used to communicate information of varying degrees of complexity. Using visualization to convey complexity is an effective mode of communicating abstract and concrete ideas. Some historical examples are Lescaux cave painting, Egyptian hieroglyphics, Greek geometry and da Vinci's methods of technical drawing.

Data visualization today is used in information science, education, engineering (e.g., product visualization), interactive multimedia, medicine, and so on. A typical data visualization application can be seen in the field of computer graphics which may be the most important development in visualizing information since the invention of central perspective in the Renaissance. The development of animation has also helped to advance the field of data and information visualization. Using data visualization techniques can help you to explore the digital storytelling, learn how colour conveys information our brains recognize before we're fully aware of it, discover how books reveal clues to our deeper selves and find out how researchers investigate unknown phenomena, from initial sketches to published papers using data.

Wikidata, an offshoot of Wikipedia, is a centralized repository for data and facts, and feeds information into Wikipedia.

What is Data Visualization?

Examples of data visualization

  • The Alliance for Networking Visual Culture seeks to enrich the intellectual potential of our fields to inform understandings of an expanding array of visual practices as they are reshaped within digital culture, while also creating scholarly contexts for the use of digital media in film, media and visual studies. By working with humanities centers, scholarly societies, and key library, archive, and university press partners, we are investigating and developing sustainable platforms for publishing interactive and rich media scholarship.
  • Uses data from academic journal articles to show where research on topics is being conducted
  • Hasn't been updated but still an example of using structured data from academic journal articles.
  • displays some examples of the Best and Worst of Statistical Graphics, with the view that the contrast may be useful, inform current practice, and provide pointers to both historical and current work
  • Produced by GE
  • looks through 7.2 million electronic medical records to illustrate relationships between various conditions and how common those connections are.
  • This map shows earthquakes, including magnitude, as they are reported by the US Geological Survey
  • The Name Voyager visualizes a century of baby name trends based on census data.
  • Sorts current news headlines visually
  • Transforming data into persuasive visualizations
  • NodeXL is a free, open-source template for Excel® that makes it easy to explore network graphs. Enter a network edge list in a worksheet, click a button and see your graph, all in the familiar environment of the Excel window
  • Methods of visual representation presented as a periodic table of the elements — a graphical tool for interactive exploration
  • Research project which aims to understand how people make sense of big data visualizations
  • Visually shows the popularity and scientific evidence for popular health supplements.
  • A simple tag cloud combined with a slider shows how the terms used in Presidential addresses have changed over time
  • A visualization of the metadata standards used in cultural industries (including libraries and archives)
  • A powerful application generating interactive data visualizations that can be used in printed materials; works with datasheets in Excel
  • A couple demonstrations of visualizing information flow in science
  • A simple image showing different types of fish and which ones are sustainable to consume

Key projects & websites

4-star.gif 4 stars denotes librarian-selected, high quality information. Starred sites are great places to begin your research.
  • the project will explore data visualization applications in various fields including journalism, science, medicine and public health, law, architecture, planning and political science and use experts from the university
  • Personal website of author, programmer & visualizer Ben Fry

  • CSAIL looks at the issue of big data as "fundamentally multi-disciplinary"; the MIT team includes faculty and researchers across related technology areas, including algorithms, architecture, data management, machine learning, privacy and security, user interfaces, and visualization; as well as domain experts in finance, medical, smart infrastructure, education and science

  • Personal blog and website of Jer Thorp

  • incredible, intricate data visualizations

  • interactive and dynamic data visualizations

  • Authored by David McCandless

  • Truthy is a web-based system to analyze and visualize the diffusion of information on Twitter; the system evaluates thousands of tweets an hour to identify new and emerging meme activity

Librarian projects


Hans Rosling's statistical visualization for global health


Personal tools