IML440 Interdisciplinary Thesis Production, Data Visualization Assignment, Spring 2015

In 1945 Vannevar Bush decried the deleterious effect of information overload and poor data management, noting that Mendel’s groundbreaking work on genetics was lost to the world for a generation because it was not accessible to those who might expand upon it. More than half a century later, the situation has increased exponentially: Contemporary culture is characterized by information overload, data deluge and an awareness of the systems complexity of a globally networked world. As such it is no surprise that the visual display of information has exploded as a means of representing vast datasets.

Infographics and three-dimensional simulations join conventional pie charts and bar graphs as numerous consumer level tools for creating these visualizations have emerged over the last few years. Critical engagement with these images and with the tools that produce them will form the basis of this assignment, as we work through the interpretation and production of information visualizations in various forms. Using a comparative model, you will explore and analyze the ways in which information shifts based on the type of visualization used to express it, and speculate about how this impacts knowledge in the key research area into which your thesis project is intervening.

The rationale for this assignment is twofold: first, most of the theses over the last few years have included some aspect of data visualization or infographic and this makes complete sense given that digital technologies are as amenable to images as to words. Thus, your visualization may well be directly placed into your thesis itself. However, if it is not appropriate to your project, the visualization will become part of your documentation, showing the research that you have done, even as it may also demonstrate “multiple approaches to the same issue,” which is a sub-area within the thesis parameter RESEARCH COMPONENT.

Project Plan due on wiki: 2/3. Project due on wiki: 2/24.

Below is a slideshow with several models from previous theses, followed by the four thesis parameters and the three facets that demonstrate each.

• The project’s controlling idea must be apparent.
• The project must be productively aligned with one or more multimedia genres.
• The project must effectively engage with the primary issue/s of the subject area into which it is intervening.

• The project must display evidence of substantive research and thoughtful engagement with its subject matter.
• The project must use a variety of credible sources and cite them appropriately.
• The project ought to deploy more than one approach to an issue.

• The project’s structural or formal elements must serve the conceptual core.
• The project’s design decisions must be deliberate, controlled, and defensible.
• The project’s efficacy must be unencumbered by technical problems.

• The project must approach the subject in a creative or innovative manner.
• The project must use media and design principles effectively.
• The project must achieve significant goals that could not be realized on paper.

2015 Sample student projects