In 2012, 2.5 quintillion bytes of data (1 followed by 18 zeros) were created on a daily basis.(1) And more than 90% of the world's electronic data was created within the last couple of years. This phenomenon will be amplified in a greater extent with more exhaustive, automated data collection via smartphones and Google Glass-like gadgets in the future. On the one hand, we are constantly bombarded by an overwhelming amount of information from every direction, yet on the other hand, we have to find out which information is important and relevant to us.

This makes visual data presentation, or data visualization, both exciting and challenging. The exciting part is that more ways of combining and generating new information and knowledge will be available. However, at the same time, it may take much longer to tease out background noise from meaningful patterns. "Visualizations act as a campfire around which we gather to tell stories."(2) We have more individual story elements to choose from, but to tell an engaging and insightful story that makes an impact still requires a lot of preparation from the "story-tellers".
A list of the best voted data visualizations have been discussed at Quora.(3) I have picked out the ones related to science or health/diseases, as well as added a number of my personal favorites:

  1. Knowledge map from KhanAcademy.org: A mindmap organization of mathematic topics and subtopics
  2. Citation patterns from EigenFactor.org: A flow map indicating the clusters, magnitudes, and connections of academic publications
  3. Neumulator from MIT.edu: A visual representation of neuronal simulation
  4. Public health mindmap from WikiMindMap.org: A mindmap capturing all the relevant wiki pages within a broad topic (ie: public health)
  5. John Snow cholera map from UCLA.edu: The map John Snow created to discover the true cause of cholera outbreak in London
  6. How different groups spend their day from NYTimes.com: Interactive chart indicating how different demographic groups spend the time of their day 
  7. Sexperience 1000 from SexperienceUK.channel4.com: An interactive journey through the sexual experiences and preferences of one thousand British individuals
  8. PaperScape from Infosthetics.com: A visual overview of 869,258 scientific physics, mathematics, and computer papers that have been published at open e-print archive arXiv
  9. Diagram of the causes of mortality from Wikipedia.org: An old polar area diagram used to understand deaths from zymotic diseases
  10. Walk your way to better health from Pinterest.com: A visually appealing poster that summarizes the health benefits from walking
  11. Get nuts from CoolDailyInfographics.com: A colorful poster on the nutritional benefits of nuts
  12. Snake oil? from InformationIsBeautiful.net: An innovative way of depicting the level of evidence supporting many commonly consumed supplements
  13. Gapminder world offline from GapMinder.org: Interactive graph for exploring international trends
  14. Wealth inequality in America Infographic animation from ViralViralVideos.com: A powerful animation depicting the extreme inequality of wealth distribution in the U.S.

There are five crucial elements I've observed from these great examples: Classification, Connection, Filtration, Interaction, and Transition (CC-FIT). Good classification allows comprehensible interpretation and effective organization of information. Connections of previously unexplored relationships could lead to new knowledge discovery. Filtration is required to filter out background noises or irrelevant information. Interaction by end users (such as selection of interested material) creates a greater sense of engagement. Smooth transition from one visual to the next makes the story to be more coherent and understandable.

"The art and practice of visualizing data is becoming ever more important in bridging the human-computer gap to mediate analytical insight in a meaningful way."(2)

Reference

  1. Conner M. Data on big data. 2012; Available from: http://marciaconner.com/blog/data-on-big-data/.
  2. Shalloway A. Data visualization quotes. 2011; Available from: http://visualign.wordpress.com/quotes/.
  3. Gemignani Z, Cheng K, Knecht S, et al. Data visualization: what are the best data visualizations ever created? 2011; Available from: http://www.quora.com/Data-Visualization/What-are-the-best-data-visualizations-ever-created?srid=pRli&share=1.

Please rate this