New media and digital culture researchers are often critical of quantification, i.e. reducing more and more areas of our activity to data sets. Yet, isn’t visualisation based on digital data a chance to present cultural and social issues in a new form?
ST: Visualisation should be treated as an acultural tool, useful in reducing often very complex processes and phenomena to the visual form and thus facilitating the understanding of phenomena which are difficult to grasp when perceived at the raw quantitative data level. Therefore, the potential benefit of visualisation and research approaches such as data-driven design can be seen especially in the humanities and social sciences. In this type of projects, data serves as a starting point by providing a set of objective information and assumptions on which we agree, regardless of our views. Based on this data, we are able to formulate more precise research questions, while various visualisation help us reach a wider audience. Of course, you should remember not to fall prey to data fetishisation and maintain a certain distance.
What is the future of visualisation? Is the development of media technologies and new device and interface types going to bring about a radical evolution of today’s practice?
ST: In the future, we can expect interesting data visualisation implementations, especially within the urban fabric and architecture, and I’m not talking only about the visual aspect, such as interactive facades. There are new forms of interaction and information reporting based on haptic (ed. tactile) and auditory interfaces. We are in for engaging, multi-sensory experiences thanks to the development of wearable technologies, including smart clothes, sensors and the Internet of Things. I also envisage further growth of data visualisation as an interactive communication tool. Instead of static representation, which is dominant today, it would be great to see tools for remote teamwork on interactive visualisations with real-time modification features.
SF: Worthy of consideration in this context is also ensuring a growth in the area of visualisation literacy, so that visualisation can be transformed from merely a passive playback medium into a freely-modifiable work tool.