Seeing the challenges of visualisation
by Samuel Jones
Visualisation is a way of representing - and aggregating - people's different experiences of a space like a city. As the article explains, 'visualisation comes in the form of still images, moving ones and three-dimensional models that depict elusive, often abstract phenomena such as the movement of Internet traffic, scientific theories or a city's emotional landscape'.
One of the things that interests me about this is the ambivalent role of the visual in making sense of a complex world. Through a range of media and a range of stimuli, from the Web to the shops, foods and fashions we see on the street, we are exposed to a a wider range of cultures than ever before. Often, we actively seek them out - we look at pictures and videos online, we tune into TV programmes and we go to see exhibitions. However, this is a two-edged sword because it satisfies our curiosity, but also adds further voices to an increasing hubbub and it can challenge our own values, for better and for worse.
Visualisation is intriguing because it plays to the most basic of our senses. On the one hand, it simplifies the complex. On the other, it plays to and highlights the very space in which that complexity is becoming more palpable.
The article conludes that 'our exposure to the Internet, video games and the arsenal of visual imagery that bombards us each day has made us more visually sophisticated, and keener to decipher complicated information visually, rather than in words or numbers'. I wonder if that's the case. Certainly, we have greater exposure to a wider range of visual material, bbut where are we getting the skills and confidence with which to decipher, manage and make sense of that material?