According to Oxford Dictionary, data is a noun which is used to describe ”facts and statistics collected together for reference or analysis”. In addition, data is used in a philosophical context as ”things known or assumed as facts, making the basis of reasoning or calculation.” However, for the purpose of this post I will be focusing on the meaning associated with computer science that defines the data as ”the quantities, characters, or symbols on which operations are performed by a computer, which may be stored and transmitted in the form of electrical signals and recorded on magnetic, optical, or mechanical recording media.” To understand the follower example we should keep in our minds this definition. In the example, the data is visualized giving so that the result is conveyed more clearly especially for visual learners.
Data visualization is a different way to present data. The main goal is to communicate information clearly and efficiently. So, visualization has to be informative and useful to be successful. Besides, data visualization hide a question which has to be answered such as a small story which slowly unfolds with the help of the visual element. Where we to use a formula a to describe this, would be the following: Question + Visual Data + Context = Story (Shapiro).
Below is presented an example of data processing and visual representation to show how data, through the right combinations, has the potential to produce a meaningful result and not just information, thus contributing to the creation of knowledge. The software Tableau (https://www.tableau.com/) was used for the creation of this chart, a data visualisation software which can help someone see and understand what results could arise from their data. It is user-friendly and can connect to almost any database. It is the database of the Central Statistics Office (CSO) (http://www.cso.ie/webserviceclient/DatasetListing.aspx) that is used here. From this dataset, one could select a topic and a subtopic that the are interesting in and the available data tables will be displayed. On this occasion, the name “Recorded Crime Offences by Garda Station, Type of Offence and Year” is used, taken from the main category of “People and Society” and the secondary category of “Crime and Justice.” From this diagram, are exported data about how many and what kind of crimes are reported were reported to the police stations in Ireland from 2003 to 2016.
As can be seen in the pictures, there is one main illustration and an appendix. In the first one, are showed the different types of offences, in which police station they took place, what year and how many there were.
The appendix presents the categories of the offences, how many they are and the color in which they can found in the illustration.
When the cursor is on one of the different circles, the following statistics appear: Garda Station, Type of Offence, Year and Value. The bigger circles have a bigger value number and the smaller have a smaller one, respectively. Ιn this way, simply by moving the mouse over the chart, everyone is able to be informed about the basics without getting losing themselves in long lists of endless information such as in the database used here.
The world of data and the way it is organized and visualized may be resemble confusing, but after appropriate processing and construction it could reveal something that we had not imagined before. It is something like Lego, where there are many pieces in different shapes, colors, and sizes and through consecutive and different combinations they have the ability a new result can be produced very different from the previous one. Thus, the data, like small Lego pieces, can be combined in many different ways to produce the results we want to present each time. However, when we talk about data, imagination is not enough. A key role is played by the wording of the question we want to answer through the elaboration of appropriate data. We should experiment with the available data and try to create new combinations and versions. Through all that, we could realize the potential data hides. So, let’s start the data game!
Shapiro, M., Once Upon a Stacked Time Series, Beautiful Visualization, Edit. by Steele, J. and Iliinsky, N., http://simpte.ch/ebooks/OReilly.Beautiful.Series/9781449379872%20-%20Beautiful%20Visualization.pdf, Web, Accessed on 16/2/2017
Oxford Dictioneries, https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/data, Web, Accessed on 16/2/2017
Recorded Crime Offences by Type of Offence and Quarter, http://www.cso.ie/webserviceclient/DatasetListing.aspx, Web, Accessed on 16/2/2017