Why Isn’t Data Visualization More Popular?

Posted to Visualization  |  Nathan Yau

Todd provides 5 reasons why data visualization isn't more prevalent:

  1. People don't know what data visualization is.
  2. Bad visualization has skewed perception of what data visualization is and what it can be used for.
  3. People can't interpret charts or new data representations.
  4. Visualization is difficult to create, but easy to copy.
  5. People won't pay for visualization.

While all the reasons do have some truth, there are a couple things worth adding.

People Do Know What Data Visualization Is

People have some kind of idea of what data is and know that you can get information out of it somehow. Maybe it's with a graph or it could be with something more elaborate, but most people will get it. They know what data visualization is. They just don't know what it's called. In other words, they know. They just don't know they know.

People Will Pay (A Lot) for Visualization

With all the data out there and the constantly increasing volumes of it, more people want to understand without having to learn formal statistical methods. How can they understand it? Visualization of course. The growing number of examples I've covered here on FlowingData show that there is a growing demand. After all, a lot of stuff I've covered here was commissioned.

Not Too Worried

Anyways, even though not everyone knows about data visualization (yet), I'm not too worried about it. There's just too much data for people not to care... or am I wasting my time? No. If they don't care, we'll show them why they should.

2 Comments

  • Hi Nathan,

    Thanks for posting this! I somehow missed Todd’s original post the other week. In my opinion, this is basically THE question that needs to be explored as infovis starts to mature. I agree with Todd’s points, and with your responses, but I think these are subtle issues that should be carefully unpacked.

    Not to plug, but I recently completed a Master’s thesis that tries to get at some of these issues, ostensibly from a media studies perspective. I’d love to get your (or anyone else’s) thoughts on it, if you’re interested. Link is blogged here:

    http://visualmethods.blogspot.com/2008/05/information-visualization-for-people.html

    Cheers,

    -Mike

  • @mike_d: my own dissertation will be on personal visualization – allowing non-experts explore and understand their data – so very nice and timely.

Favorites

19 Maps That Will Blow Your Mind and Change the Way You See the World. Top All-time. You Won’t Believe Your Eyes. Watch.

Many lists of maps promise to change the way you see the world, but this one actually does.

Where People Run in Major Cities

There are many exercise apps that allow you to keep track of your running, riding, and other activities. Record speed, …

Famous Movie Quotes as Charts

In celebration of their 100-year anniversary, the American Film Institute selected the 100 most memorable quotes from American cinema, and …

Jobs Charted by State and Salary

Jobs and pay can vary a lot depending on where you live, based on 2013 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Here’s an interactive to look.