Recap of Information Visualization module

Recap of Information Visualization module

October 2, 2013 11:44 PM 0 comments

On of my favorite modules at NID has got to be Information Visualization. We had this module twice (2nd & 3rd semesters), and both had an interesting set of assignments, guest lectures and enlightenment (if I may use that term!) Here is a quick recap along with the work done in this module.

Caution: Sorry for the long post! Feel free to jump to the Deliverables highlighted at the end of every section!

During Info Viz – I, we worked on critiquing and redesigning a Mint infographic, making a visual graphic on how to make tea, and then propose a way to visualize the alumni of NID. This was a 3 week module, and we had four guest workshops: about Sakala by Sridhar Pabbisetty, on Typography by Dr. Girish Dalvi (who also came this sem for Grids), one on Processing by Abhishek Ghate (NID Alumnus), and one on Interactive visualizations by Jignesh Khakhar (who also discussed vintage visualizations). I learned to explore code to a greater extent, as well as appreciate subtle details (through our type exercises).

With a good idea about data visualization, we started the Info Viz – II, only to be surprised by the vast amount of things we didn’t know. We were lucky to have Prof. Venkatesh Rajamanickam join NID just in time for this module. We started with a short workshop by Sridhar Pabbisetty on data modelling and the nuances of using Excel to play with data, which helped us prepare data for our main project (more below).

Information Taxonomy

We discussed the more theoretical side of Information: Shannon’s Theory of Communication, LATCH etc. during the class on Classification Systems, as well as study some classical and modern articles on this topic and do a short presentation on it. Topics ranged from Aristotle’s Categories & Immanuel Kant’s Schema Theory to slightly recent articles like Goodbye, Anecdotes! by Trevor Butterworth and The Checklist by Atul Gawande. I was given the article Our Shopping Lists, Our Selves by Jessica Helfand, and decided to look at the history of lists, and some examples of how it influences us.

Deliverable: You can find my presentation on Lists here, and the accompanying doc (PDF: 700 KB) here.

Information Encoding

Venkatesh picked a bunch of great articles from the Point of View articles on the Nature magazine. You can read all of the issues from Nature blog. I worked on two articles on Gestalt, and made a short presentation to recap the important principles and show examples of how it is applied in Information Visualization.

Deliverable: You can find my presentation on Gestalt here, and the accompanying doc (PDF: 1 MB) here.

S Anand on Everything about Data Visualization

S Anand gave an exhaustive, inspiring and candid talk on everything (literally) about Data Visualization: we talked about the whole process, how (not) to critique, quantity vs quality, statistics and storytelling. At the end of the day, he gave us a bunch of datasets to play with. Two teams (Me & Babu, and Kenneth & Shweta) took up the trains database and tried to visualize it.

This was exciting, because we decided to wind this up in a weekend (ended up using a few more days), and wanted to get an actual prototype (and not just concepts/static visualization). By this time, I had already worked on the first draft of my visualization project, and had learnt a bit of Javascript and the d3 library, so I had decided to use it again. We also decided to use a hack S Anand had given (to get a rough cartogram), like we’ve used below:

Delhi Rajdhani Visualized

We also decided to add a constrain of only trains that start from one of the four metros: Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, or Kolkata. Once the 600 trains were on the map, you could already see a rough form of India, and it seemed to work quite well without the map. Here is how the visualization emerged:

Visualizing trains by Rasagy

Deliverable: Here is the visualization (on Github), and a live documentation of the process.

Maps, maps and more maps by Arun Ganesh

Arun Ganesh came for a couple of days to talk about a bunch of topics related to cartography, mapping, GIS, and making geo-visualizations. We saw various maps, talked about some modern ones (like Berg’s Inception-like map), and explored the idea behind Schematic Maps. I decided to redesign this map of Map of Andamanese Languages & Tribes and made this:

Andaman Schematic Map by Rasagy

We then played with QGIS and made some pretty looking terrain maps, like this:

India terrain map by Rasagy

This was followed by adding data from our neighborhood on OSM, exploring some basic CartoCSS in TileMill, and figuring out how to host maps using Leaflet/Mapbox. I ended up making a (slightly messy implementation of) choropleth of hospitals in India, which zooms in to split into district wise data, right from TileMill.

Deliverable: You can view the 3 assignments here, and more details on my maps tumblr.

Main Project: Visualizing 500 Days of Summer

For my main project, I decided to visualize the narrative of 500 Days of Summer. I wanted to apply what I learnt from my module on Narratives and also pick up Javascript, and this seemed like a perfect option. I also got some great feedback from Jignesh Khakhar, who also talked in detail about some fundamentals questions (Does data exist? Is data neutral?). I created thread arcs in d3 (thanks to Scott’s book!) and here is how it looked:

500 Days of Summer Visualization by Rasagy

Deliverable: Here is the final visualization (on Github), and a detailed post about the process.

*phew* That’s all folks! I hope to keep documenting and sharing all my work, so keep checking this blog (You can also subscribe via email) or just follow me on Twitter! :)

As always, comments & feedbacks are welcome!