Definition of Data Visualization

TL;DR: The definition of Data Visualization according to Oxford Dictionary is “the representation of information in the form of a chart, diagram, picture, etc.”

Seeing how this is my first blog I wanted to write about something small, so I don’t discuss many technologies used or how to make your own visuals. I mainly want to give a high-level explanation for what Data Visualization is to get comfortable with writing a blog post. Data Visualization is as much an art as it is a science.

Why Data Visualization isn’t Trivial

Which representation is more intuitive?

A plot of data
A table of the same data

Neither, it depends on what your trying to show. The plot reveals a trend in the data, however plots don’t generally give exact quantitative values. This is an obvious example of the idea that a visualization entirely depends on the question it is answering, and its context.

Data Tells a Story

…What an absolutely gripping story, I’ll tell my grand kids this one when I am older!

So while visuals do tell a story, its definitely possible to tell it poorly as we saw above. If you were making a movie, the data you are using would be analogous to the actors, props, etc and the camera would be the plot, chart, table, histogram, or maybe all of them on a dashboard. Here, I’ll visualize the same data again but I will visualize the data above with a better “camera”. Ill use a heat map whose RGB intensity corresponds to the magnitude of each of the components of the entries.,900

Now THAT’S a story! Images are a literal example of this principle!

Why Data Visualization is Important

Here is some psychology (I am not a psychologist): the human brain processes visuals up to 60000 times faster then with other mediums such as text. Data visualization doesn’t just exist to make things more intuitive for others either. The right visualization technique can be the insight you need to answer a question, and can uncover things that were previously hidden behind a sea of data.

A sea of data


The takeaway is that data visualization is not just “the representation of information in the form of a chart, diagram, picture, etc.I know this post does not contain a lot of practical information, but I hope this was useful somehow!

I am trying blogging out to develop my skills in research. We are taught how to answer questions, but I also want to learn how to ask good ones in the first place. I am trying to do one each week, no matter what, to learn how to manage scope.




Computer Science and Applied Math student at Stony Brook University

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Scott Burgert

Scott Burgert

Computer Science and Applied Math student at Stony Brook University

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