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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Thinking visually 



In a number of papers I've put forward the idea that digitally-mediated communication has led to the use of innovative, self-sponsored writing on an unprecedented scale. This is writing at the point of change, with new forms, structures, spellings and functions coming into being. Writing as self-expression, writing as identity performance and writing as negotiation or participation. I've argued that writing on screen is an important and ubiquitous characteristic of contemporary cultural worlds and defended this 'narrow' description of digital literacy. This has led some to assume that I am arguing for preserving the 'dominance of the written form'. This is untrue; I'm just more interested in writing, although of course I note that it often appears on screen in combination with the visual. Still I'm as sceptical about popular ways of visualising data as I am about unsubstantiated claims about visual thinking or visual literacy. It's clear that images do some things better than words. So I found this piece on visualising data very interesting. Scrolling down the comments I found one that I was about to make. So here it is: 'Just to play Devil's advocate: if visualization is so great, couldn't you have conveyed all the ideas in this article using just visualizations? Why did you use words? Specifically data visualization is good for very large quantities of data that cannot be easily interpreted or even presented in a short word format.' (Mark Krepicz). So, for the time being, I'll stick to words to develop my ideas, not because they're better or anything, but just because they work.

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Comments:
I agree; I also think that there will be wider variation in how people interpret images than how they interpret words. Images as signs have a less straightforward relationship with signfieds and have more 'connotative noise'.
 
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