Infoviz: a basic example

When I try to describe the field of information visualization to folks who haven’t heard of it, I end up gesturing a lot, or resorting to vague buzzwords, or talking about bar graphs and pie charts and leaving my companion wondering what’s so all-fired cool or revolutionary about that stuff.

But now I’m starting to think of it as akin to translation.

Here’s why. You can take this:

There are key differences between Great Britain, the United Kingdom, and England—names often used interchangeably.

Great Britain
Great Britain is an island that consists of three somewhat autonomous regions that include England, Scotland, and Wales. It is located east of Ireland and northwest of France in the Atlantic Ocean.

The United Kingdom
The United Kingdom is a country that includes England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. Its official name is “United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.” England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland are often mistaken as names of countries, but they are only a part of the United Kingdom.

The British Isles
The British Isles is another term altogether and encompasses Great Britain, the island of Ireland, and several other smaller islands, such as the Isle of Man. The Isle of Man is not a part of the United Kingdom or the European Union, even though its Lord is the Monarch of the United Kingdom.

…and translate it into this “language”:

(source: “The Great British Venn Diagram” — Things of Interest)

Which version did you grasp more easily? What if you didn’t speak English — which would you be more likely to understand?

It’s all about faster, clearer, better communication.

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