Assignment 1:
Good and Bad Visualizations



The use of visualization is pervasive in the media: explanatory diagrams in magazines, graphs describing the projected impact of a new state budget, new experimental data plotted against theoretical expectations, etc. In each case, the author of the visualization tries to convey a point of view by choosing which data to present, emphasizing some aspects of the data while toning down other aspects. The result can vary widely, from informative to misleading.

For this assignment, pick out two examples, one good and one bad visualization, from any of the following sources:

Your visualizations should either be aimed at a general audience, or you should be a member of the intended audience (that is, choose a visualization that you should theoretically be capable of interpreting - it's not fair to fault a visualization for requiring expertise that you lack if it is intended for experts in that field).

You may not use papers or textbooks on visualization or information visualization, or visualizations that have already been analyzed. Go to original sources. For this assignment, please find visualizations in print sources rather than visualizations that were directly published on the internet. However, if the visualization appears in print and also on a website from the same organization, then you may use it, but please choose static visualizations for this exercise.

For each visualization, please cite its source - where did you find it?

Once you have selected a good and a bad example, add a new link to the class discussion board that includes both pictures and a short description explaining the visualizations (no more than one paragraph each) and why you think it is good or bad. Later in class you will be asked to quickly explain (in 2 to 3 minutes) the visualizations in small groups. So you should try to choose visualizations which depict data that is relatively easy to explain. Your assignment must be posted to the discussion board before class.

Note: You should work individually on this assignment.

Grading (10 pts)

Assignments will be graded based on the selection of interesting visualizations, whether the assignment is posted on time, and the quality of the in-class discussion.