Historically, whenever we wanted to convey large amounts of potentially complex information to others, we would write it down using a copious amount of text. While this has worked fairly well for many centuries – and in fact still does for many types of information – it is not necessarily the most efficient nor the most enticing method to convey information. But what alternative is there then?
Humans are visually-minded, and prefer images and colours over text. This is not just because images look nice – as the saying goes: A picture is worth a thousand words, and this certainly seems to be true when we look at popular visualizations of concepts that exist in the real world, such as atlases and human anatomy diagrams, or more abstract concepts like Gartner’s hype cycle or the relative number of people that has clicked on this hyperlink. Other visual information representations that seem really popular nowadays are infographics, which summarize information about a specific topic in a visually attractive way.
Of course, such visualizations can be used for scientific purposes as well: large datasets can for example be visualized, thus allowing scientists to see the big picture (no pun intended) or discover interesting patterns.
This is also what the MONA Project aims to do with information about activities of activist organizations. As part of my master project, I will be looking at ways that not only visualize the events and properties related to those events, but also allow both expert and non-expert users to interact with those visualizations. If done well, this should enable users to satisfy most of their information needs.
Either way, expect more to come in the near future!