Information R/evolution

I’m almost done editing my 165+ page thesis which I’ll be defending at the end of the summer. When I look at this video, I cringe to think of what it was like to write a thesis back in the olden days!

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If an Image is Worth a Thousand Words, How Much is an Animation Worth?

Nicholas A. Christakis, M.D., Ph.D., M.P.H., and James H. Fowler, Ph.D. recently published an article in the New England Journal of Medicine entitled The Collective Dynamics of Smoking in a Large Social Network.

What is fantastic with this article published online is that there is a page with supplementary material containing an animation entitled: Dynamic Graphic Representation of a Portion of the Framingham Heart Study Social Network (pump up the volume).

I’ll admit – I didn’t read the article. My eyes are too exhausted from editing my thesis (and yet somehow I find the will to blog). However, the animation was clear enough, and though I may not have as much information as I would have had by reading the article, I believe I got the essential information that I needed, and because I’m a very visual person, was able to comprehend the message quite quickly.

If only I could have done a giant Tag Cloud of my jumbled thoughts for my thesis!

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Visual Display of Information

A few years ago, I discovered Edward Tufte, who has been writing about how to efficiently display information. Here are 2 exerpts from The Visual Display of Quantitative Information (1983) – click the images to enlarge.

Fuel Economy Standards for Autos - New York Times, August 9, 1978, p.D-2.
The Shrinking Family Doctor - Los Angeles Times, August 5, 1979, p.3.

I was thoroughly impressed with the multiple examples of clever mix of text and images. It made me reflect quite a bit on the use of images in my own presentations. Now I’ve been known to use a lot of charts, diagrams and other methods to visually display information when I make presentations or posters. Maybe it’s because I’m a visual person, but I find it really helps me understand, process… well visualize the information.

In his November 2007 blog post entitled Warning: Using the Wrong Images Can Confuse Your Learners, Tom Kuhlmann discusses the importance of using images appropriately. He starts his post off with:

To lessen the cognitive load and make your content more memorable, it’s important to use images that contribute to the learning experience rather than detract from it.

Images are powerful, as are words. There seems to be a trend about adding some kind of a visual display to words on the Web 2.0. The Tag Cloud is gaining popularity. Wordle seems to be on many web aficionados’ radar lately. Below is my wordle of The Gashlycrumb Tinies.

Wordle: Gashlycrumb Tinies

And my personal new favorite discovery is Many Eyes. Click on the vignette below to see my Dr Seuss word tree!

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