05 Aug, 2020
You who have already followed our content "Timelinefy" or even you who are arriving now and wanting to know our work, know that Timelinefy (in a summarized way) is a digital tool that makes it possible to tell stories and organize information in time in a chronological way through the timeline structure. As it is digital, the tool turns the activity into a dynamic and interactive experience. Having understood this, we can ask ourselves “What does the digital tool Timelinefy have to do with the title of the text?”.
As already said, Timelinefy is a tool that organizes such information and content in timelines and it is important to make it clear that timelines for any purpose are just one way to visualize, or present some data, there are many others ways to do this and which are sometimes even more common than timelines, spreadsheets and infographics are some of the most common examples that will be further explored throughout this text. That is why, we at Timelinefy will try to explore this subject further, because talking about data visualization is also talking about timelines.
From this assimilation, we started the conceptualization phase about “data visualization” what would this concept be? When carrying out a translation of data visualization into Portuguese, we will get a simple meaning in the literal sense: “data visualization”, but what would that data be that we could visualize or try to explore? Too easy! Throughout the movements in history, information, that is, the product of writing and language are transformed or recognized as data, these data need to be registered and presented The term: data becomes more recurrent in research, as it is consolidated as a species materialization of the results and information of the work developed. Another example is also our famous “personal data”, which are the result of a compilation of personal information of each individual, to carry out some activity, such as: registrations, hiring, business transactions, etc.
But what if instead of using some written data, we replaced that data or synthesized it into figures or images, would it be easier and more interactive? Know, that human beings are becoming, more and more, visual beings (imagetic) beings that tend to feel the need to visualize content or information from figures, because more and more, society stands out from the visual plane, even more with the growth of computer graphics, however, this issue will be discussed later, following a more chronological order of facts.
The methodology is widely used in the areas of social research, media, communication and also in medicine. However, we must pay attention to the main protagonists in this story, or rather, the main precursors of data visualization, those who took the methodology as a synthesizing and simplifying mechanism of their activities, creating a legacy for society until today.
Before we mention some of the precursors, or some known figures for data visualization, it must be mentioned that the first map recorded in history, as a landmark for data visualization, was Turin, an ancient Egyptian papyrus map, generally considered the oldest surviving map of topographic interest in the world and very important for the history of data visualization. However, over the years, with the advancement of theories, maps and visual layouts have grown and highlighted some people as protagonists in the data visualization methodology.
Around 1786, some cartographers began to show not only a geographical position, but attempts to map information on geology, economics, demography and health. As the volume of data advances, new forms of visualization appear. Technological innovations such as color, lithography and press open new paths, thus making William Playfair a great known in data visualization, for being considered one of the first to create a bar and line graph with economic data, for being a well-known economist in England.
Later, after a great advance in topographic, cartographic and infographic creation, among other specificities, Baron Pierre Charles Dupin stands out when creating the first statistical map, showing the distribution of illiteracy in France, with black and white shadows differentiating the French regions . Such action stood out for the studies of the methodology and composed one of the milestones in the beginning of the contemporary era, causing other discoveries to emerge, such as infographics, which will be discussed in the next paragraphs.
How important is data visualization?
As already mentioned above, the application of data visualization can simplify the presentation of complex information, making it important for the acquisition of knowledge and information on certain subjects. An example capable of illustrating the importance of data visualization is Insights. Insights are statistical results, capable of being expressed only in the visualization of data that traditional descriptive statistics do not express.
To better exemplify what Insights are, we cite here the case of the Anscombe Quartet, created by Francis Anscombe in 1973, such a scheme includes four different data sets that vary, but at the same time, come close. Even with an almost identical correlation between the coordinates, the patterns are clearly different when represented in a graph, that is, this situation highlights how important it is to visualize the data and not just rely on descriptive statistics.
What if I tell you that games are also big users of data visualization? Yes! Data visualization provides a way to assist in the process to keep games more fun and more detailed, but how? Simple! The purpose of data visualizations in games can vary according to the game, in some games it is possible to perceive a health bar to show the status of a character (his life time in the game).
Other visualization mechanisms, such as a technology tree in Age of Empires, exist to show how a character can progress, and there are also some data visualizations not for players, but for observers, such as: death rates, gold count, among others data visualizations.
Did you see how the visualization of data besides being very important is very broad? If you want to analyze some famous games and see how such games enjoy the data visualization, follow one of our timelines: "Video Games", available on our website Timelinefy, in this timeline some very important information about the most popular games is available in the world and all its technological development over the years.
When talking about data visualization in games, we mention the maps present in games today, spreadsheets, diagrams and even infographics, but what do these methods really mean?
Spreadsheets, diagrams and infographics: traditional methods of data visualization
In this section, we will talk a little more about the different methods that have been created over time, to make the visualization of data simpler, making certain data from some researches passed from verbal to visual language, thus facilitating the process. The most traditional methods within the great methodology: “data visualization” are spreadsheets, diagrams and infographics, these methods were discovered and created long before the arrival of computer graphics and remain in constant change today. Such creations have become tools to support the economy, meteorology, physics, among other areas of studies that have stood out during the last centuries.
One of the best known methods of data visualization is spreadsheets, as it is impossible in any search or tabulation of results, you have not yet seen a spreadsheet with data. In industrialized foods, for example, there is a spreadsheet that shows the caloric amount of the food, thus tabulating the percentage, that is, being one of the most traditional methods of data visualization, however, this method can still be misinterpreted when being provided with a lot of out-of-context information, thus needing some more visual information that contributes to facilitating understanding.
The diagrams stood out a little more in the middle of the 16th century, becoming very important, since the origins of the visualization are in the geometric diagrams, in the tables of position of the stars and in the maps.
With the maritime expansion of Europe, new techniques and instruments were developed and with them, new, and more accurate, forms of visual presentation of knowledge. Diagrams are two-dimensional graphs and are generally constructed on a Cartesian plane, diagrams can also be called a graph of curves, because it is a representation of data by a polygonal line. It can be considered one of the easiest ways to represent and interpret data. It is advisable to use a maximum of four data sets.
In 1820, a large number of scientific publications began to have graphs and diagrams to describe, and not only to analyze some natural phenomena (magnetic variation, climate, etc.), having one of the most famous precursors: Michael Faraday.
If we needed to define a simple explanation for the concept of infographic, it would be the visual representation of information and data, combining elements of text image, graph, diagrams, more recently, video. An infographic is an effective tool for presenting data and explaining complex issues in a way that can quickly lead to insight and better understanding, but you already know that, right?
Such a method is one of the most current in the history of data visualization, because even though it has been composing visualization for many years, it only started to consolidate itself with the emergence of the media and later in the 20th century, with computer graphics around 1980. Some media genres, such as newspapers printed all their covers with infographics, because the daily opens an era of colorful printing in newspapers that spread around the world. Soon, infographics became part of the daily life of the press.
In the case of meteorological representations, for example, infographics could not only illustrate the region on a map, but also give it a specific color related to its temperature, it could describe it in a legend format, measure the birth rate of society in that region and the rate of dead, all in one method. Did you understand how important an infographic can become for the presentation of content? Because the infographic can represent innumerable information united in just one illustration.
After following all these arguments, can you see the importance of data visualization and all the universal graphic representation of information? We at Timelinefy try to illustrate and exemplify along the arguments of this text a little bit of the concept of data visualization which, even considered a millenary and traditional methodology, continues to be constantly hybridized, transforming itself and resignifying itself.
The methodology is fundamental not only because it is only a presentation of information, but also because it contributes to human language, since we always know that we humans tend to feel the need to narrate the facts, reproduce them and report them. Thus, by facilitating these data presentation processes, through images, we thus expand knowledge and subvert the pragmatics of language and conversational structures, thus welcoming other senses, such as the visual that can be something very explored, even today.
We believe that the understanding of this theme is important to discuss the narrative modes and the way we can retell or visualize data in the future. Our performance in timelines would not be possible if it were not for the existence of data visualization, or the use of images in information mechanisms. We must understand the importance of this methodology for all areas and understand how a recent term becomes history for graphic representation.