A nice video showing some of the cool things that are being done to visualize data – and which, as an aside, also illustrates some challenges we have to overcome in this brave new world.
First, the good stuff: It’s a great overview of what’s happening in the field, ranging from the work being done at ManyEyes to Google Data to the New York Times – probably along with the Guardian the most cutting-edge of all mainstream media organizations in this area – and more. It’s full of people clearly in their element and exploring the boundaries of what we can do with information.
But it also shows how new and unmapped this landscape is. There’s still a lot of visualizing for the sake of visualizing; a real grammar hasn’t yet emerged. That makes it a heady time for people in the field – it’s like being present at the creation of a new narrative form. But less so for consumers of the product (us) who sometimes feel like we’re guinea pigs being experimented on.
The old narrative form – video – does show its strengths and weaknesses, as well. Since the subject matter is visual, and somewhat complicated, video helps explain it well. And this one is nicely broken up into chapters and annotated with sidebars. But at the same time, it also highlights video’s disadvantages – the entire show is nearly a hour long, and it’s hard to sustain attention for all of that, even if you’re fascinated by the topic.
Which really raises an important point: We need to understand all media and platforms well – what works well for one, and what doesn’t, and how to make experiences useful, immersive and interesting for users/readers. Without that, we’re just playing with toys in the sandbox.
All in all, an interesting video worth watching. Even if you don’t make it through the entire hour of it.