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Human Data Science (HDS)


24 October 2019
15:00 - 16:00
C0.20, Sjoerd Groenman Gebouw

Prof. dr. Michael Friendly: The rise of visual thinking and graphic communication: Some stories and lessons from the history of data visualization


Thursday 24/10/2019 at 15:00 in room C0.20

The next MSDSlab meeting will be on Thursday, October 24th. In this talk, Prof. dr. M. (Michael) Friendly, author of various books on data visualization in R and other statistical programs, will present work from his new book on the history of data visualization. This is a very interesting topic providing food for thought for everyone who translates their data into figures and graphics.


This talk gives an overview of some of the content from my current book Data Visualization: A History of Visual Thinking and Graphic Communication (Harvard University Press, 2020). The general theme is that graphical methods so common today arose largely in conjunction with important scientific and social questions.  Most of the heroes in this history had what we call a “gleam in the mind’s eye,” an inner vision: an appreciation of the connections among numbers (data) , the idea of evidence for a proposition, and some sort of visual presentation as a means of drawing a conclusion or providing a demonstration. In psychology, we might call this “visual thinking.”

The central questions are: How and why did data visualization arise? What were some key innovations? What cognitive and technological infrastructure was required?  I trace a small portion of this history with a selection of vignettes relating to some of my favorite heroes. I hope to raise more questions than I can answer.