Much like charts and tables, data visualization can be both effective and ineffective. Its goal in the most basic sense is to present data, much like a table or a chart, but it attempts to do this in a more visually stimulating way than your standard bar graph or stripped down table. If the data is not particularly dense, it can be a much better way to show an idea. One of the examples of graphs we looked at showed the price of a barrel of oil and how it has gone up over the years. The price was represented by actual barrels of oil, and as the price went up, the barrel grew in size. This isn’t particularly the most effective way to show that price per barrel is rising, but it gives a general idea of it in an interesting way. If the article is less focused on the raw data and facts, and rather focuses on analysis or something about how culture or society has adjusted to oil price raises, this type of data presentation is very good.
I pulled this map off a website called creativebloq.com and was under their article The 33 best tools for data visualization. This is a good example of how data visualization is actually very effective. A table could show which states each president came from, or which states produced the most presidents, a chart could do this as well. We’ve seen this done a hundred times and it’s just no longer exciting or interesting. For this picture, it shows a portrait of each president and which state he was born in. This is much more attention grabbing, obviously. But it also has it’s worth beyond aesthetics– it shows how concentrated the area from which most presidents come from is. Generally, they are all from the East Coast, with a few from Texas. One was born in California, and obviously Obama was born in Hawaii. It shows how the East Coast has monopolized the presidency and how the western US is not represented in the White House at all.
That said, this type of visualization has it’s limit. If you asked where Franklin Pierce was born, you couldn’t find the info from this picture. You could say he was born on the East Coast, probably somewhere in New England, but something like this definitely fails at showing and highlighting the specifics that tables and graphs are far stronger at illustrating. For some essays, data visualization can present data into a visually stimulating representation. For an academic paper or something that isn’t for entertainment purposes, a table or chart will always be preferred.