Visualising Science

In my last post I spoke about how information graphics allow us to present complex data quickly and clearly. This week we were introduced to visualisation in the communication of science. To many, science seems like a foreign language. Pyridinium chlorochromate, phenyl, pyrophoric, riisopropylsilyl are just a few of the scientific terms I cannot even pronounce, let alone understand. Fortunately, I don’t have to.

Climate change, on the other hand, is becoming increasingly important for us to understand. The causes and impacts can be quite complex and require a fair amount of research to fully grasp. This is where information graphics can be of assistance. They visualise complex, scientific data, so that we are able to better understand concepts in a shorter period of time.

In the first reading, Struggling Polar Bears put on Endangered List, the picture of a polar bear below represents the species becoming endangered and, in a broader sense, the seriousness nature of climate change. The report states that, “two thirds of the species – 16,000 animals – could disappear by 2050 as global warming melts the Arctic sea ice.” This is quite an alarming statistic, but the image is what really tells the story. It illustrates the severity of the environmental disaster at a simple glance, and as a result the polar bear has become almost synonymous with climate change.

I particularly liked The Global Warming Skeptics versus the Scientific Consensus. Down the left hand side is a series of statements made by skeptics of global warming and down the right are the contradictory statements of the scientists who claim to have proof of global warming. Through the middle are visualisations of the data presented in each set of statements. It manages to condense a lot of information into short statements, but again the diagrams in the middle column, to me, seem to confirm the scientists statements rather than the statements themselves. To me the graphics speak louder than words, perhaps naively, I tend not to question the image as much as text.

In my last post, I also touched on Guy Debord’s theory from the reading Society of the Spectacle, wherein he considers that the visualisation of data is turning us into passive consumers of the spectacle.

The readings this week made Debord’s theory much easier to grasp. It also shed some light on the Art of Illusion reading in where Plato reveals a great distrust of the manufactured image. With the proliferation of digital technology, it seems more necessary to question the authenticity of the image.

This video highlights how airbrushing can transform your everyday girl into a supermodel. It affectively makes the viewer question the authenticity of the seemingly “real” images in advertisments and magazines.

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