Assignment #1 (Due: 04/10/02)

The use of information visualization techniques is pervasive: explanatory diagrams in news magazines, graphs describing the projected impact of a new state budget, new experimental data plotted against theoretical expectations, assembly instruction for a new piece of furniture, etc. In each case, the author of the visualization tries to convey a point of view by emphasizing some aspects of the data while toning down other aspects. The result can vary widely, from informative to misleading.

For this assignment, we are asking you to pick out the 3 best and 3 worst examples of information visualization you know about. Examples can be drawn from a wide variety of sources such as cover or data presented in scientific magazines (Nature, Science, Scientific American...), textbooks, Web, video footage, news magazines (Newsweek, Times, The Economist...), but should not be drawn from an information visualization book (i.e., a book explaining the pro and cons of a given visualization). Books, video footage, web pages, programs running on a laptop, etc. can all be easily shown in the class, as our classroom is equipped with a computer connected to the net, a video drop for a laptop, a VCR, and an overhead video camera.

For each of your 6 examples, you should be ready to quickly explain to the class its strengths and weaknesses. Possible criteria for evaluation might include accessibility, clarity, accuracy, ease of use, or any other criterion you feel is important.