Assignment 1a: Good and Bad Visualizations

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Assignment Due: September 3, 2008


The use of visualization is pervasive in the media: explanatory diagrams in magazines, graphs describing the projected impact of a new state budget, new experimental data plotted against theoretical expectations, 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, pick out two examples, one good and one bad visualization, from any of the following sources:

  • Textbook
  • Science magazine (Nature, Science, Scientific American, ...)
  • Magazine or newspaper (Newsweek, The Economist, NY Times, USA Today, ...)

You may not use papers or textbooks on visualization or information visualization. Go to original sources used by practitioners and researchers. For this assignment, please do not use examples pulled from the web.

I'd like you to find visualization in print sources rather than visualizations that were directly published on the internet. However, if the visualization appears in print and also on a website from the same organization, then you may use it. In all cases be sure to cite the source of the visualization.

Once you have selected a good and a bad example, add a new page to the class wiki that includes both pictures and a short description explaining the visualization. Later in class you will be asked to quickly explain (in 2 to 3 minutes) the visualizations to the rest of the class. So you should try to choose visualizations which depict data that is relatively easy to explain. Be sure to cite to source of the visualization as well. Your assignment must be posted to the wiki before class on September 3, 2008.

How to create your wiki page

Begin by creating a new wiki page for this assignment. The title of the page should be of the form:


Replace Firstname and Lastname with your real first and last names. You can create the page by entering a url of the following form into your browser:

To upload images to the wiki, first create a link for the image of the form [[Image:image_name.jpg]] (replacing image_name.jpg with a unique image name for use by the server). This will create a link you can follow that will then allow you to upload the image. Alternatively, you can use the "Upload file" link in the toolbox to upload the image first, and then subsequently create a link to it on your wiki page.

Add a link to your finished assignment here

One you are finished editing the page, add a link to it here with full name as the link text. The wiki syntax will look like this: *[[A1-FirstnameLastname|Firstname Lastname]]. Hit the edit button for this section to see how I created the link for my name.

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