Data can be so meaningless. The U.S. budget deficit, death counts, the total amount of carbon we produce all have one thing in common. The numbers by themselves are empty. They need context to make them real and living.
That's the beauty of data visualization. It gives context and understanding. Visualization turns data into soil and from it we can see beautiful things.
That's the theme that we get from David McCandless, a data journalist and author, who spoke at TED and fills 18 minutes with infographics, context and relevance about the magic of visualization.
McAndless shows us how data is the new soil. It's not the new oil as some have proposed. With visualization, data becomes a feast. Why? We are all visualizers.
There is something magic about it. McCandless says our eyes are super sensitive to change. Numbers are the language of the mind. With data visualization, we have two languages both talking at the same time.
McCandless gives a number of examples that show the meanings and insights that come with data visualization.
Data can change our minds. Design helps solve problems. Infomation design is about solving information problems, seeing things we could not see before.
His ending humorously sums up what we can learn from events that seem to have such significance.
The Icelandic volcano spewed ash that amounted to 150,000 tons of carbon dioxide. The planes it grounded would have released 345,000 tons of carbon dioxide.
What does that tell us? Essentially, we had our first carbon neutral volcano.
(Lead image from Information is Beautiful.)