A Visual Bodycount

So it’s pretty well established that as humans, with our fickle little memories, we’re obsessed with archiving our data. Most of the time we think of archives we think of books or words, pictures too, but they’re separate elements – saved as separate pictures. Well Visualisation as its put in academia is actually just a visual extension/version of the archive, an image that expresses data in a certain way. It usually makes it more easily digestible and accessible to an audience that has no interest in searching for that information themselves. As Edward Tufte suggests, they’re not perfect and extensive, because of the risks of oversimplification. A picture may speak a thousand words, but it’s not the whole story.

Lately in the online film blogging scene, visualisations have taken people by storm. Movies that have specific fan cultures around them, cultures craving new ‘factoids’ about their favourite films, are having all these different visualisations made for them. They’re referred to as infographics they can show some pretty interesting things, in a visually pleasing way. For instance one popular infographic was based around the Friday the 13th film series and the ways in which the main villain Jason killed people. It shows individual body silhouettes arranged in the order they’re killed on the page, it also shows how they’re killed. Its kinda gross, but its definitely cool. The problem is though, that infographics tend to be amalgamations of data that are interesting in only a cursory way – they’re actually made more interesting by the way they’re presented. That’s the brilliance of the infographic though, its presented using universal shapes and lines that could be taken as anything, but in the context they’re used they have meaning for their audience. Timo talks about this in different terms, referring to dotted lines specifically, and their power to create three dimensionality and meaning. It’s the same principle though.

Also of interest are the visualisations of Facebook and Friends Lists. They show our interactions all over the globe and each other – in a broad way though often. These big arcing lines travelling across continents. It’s quite beautiful and born from the human urge to know our place in the world. Visualisations are showing us what we want to know and who we are in a way that’s filtered and a ‘approximation’ of the actual, but beautifully simplistic and easily shared and understood.

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