A Sense of Place

1. Feminist Data Visualization, Catherine D’Ignazio
2. “Representation and the Necessity of Interpretation”, Laura Kurgan

Instead of looking at Data Visualization as a system of oppressed and oppressors, I suggest we understand that we are all just wondering in the dark. Everything around us is a representation of the imbalanced power structure – since ‘power structure’ and ‘balance’ can never go hand in hand.

In the military intelligence community, any source of information that has been consciously processed by humans is automatically ranked as a less reliable source (news reports, lectures, social media posts…), and that’s not by chance. Therefore “…We must acknowledge data visualization as one more powerful and flawed tool of oppression” is an important criticism, but one who fails to understand that all things can be seen as tools of oppression since all data representation is distorted based on the creator values scales and worldview.

Even the most socially aware designer can’t take all voices into consideration, I will argue that they can take only their own voice into consideration.

I found Kurgan piece closer to my experience analyzing geo data under the expectation of forming a coherent story. The term “emptiness and abstraction” describes this feeling well, and a major step in the understanding that even though it’s a fairly accessible source of information, it’s a complicated one to draw conclusions of (as she well demonstrates at the beginning of the piece). When trying to draw conclusions from any kind of source, one must ask himself what is the nature of that source, while cross-referencing with other sources of information if he wishes to suggest an assumption. “… The putatively scientific and objective interpretations […] tell only a story, not the story, of what is going on in these images.”

The British philosopher Alan Watts once said: “…When we examine our bloodstreams under a microscope we see there’s one hell of a fight going on. All sorts of microorganisms are chewing each other up. And if we got overly fascinated with our view of our own bloodstreams in the microscope, we should start taking sides, which would be fatal, because the health of our organism depends on the continuance of this battle. What is, in other words, conflict at one level of magnification, is harmony at a higher level. Now could it possibly be then that we, with all our problems, conflicts, neurosis, sicknesses, political outrages, wars, tortures and everything that goes on in human life are a state of conflict which can be seen in a larger perspective as a situation of harmony?”

I believe in our ability as a society to emerge from the oppressed and oppressors system. The only way to do so is to cease from seeing ourselves as victims of oppressive systems and understand that all information presented to us has been manipulated for various reasons. There is no absolute truth, and what we see as power struggles are actually an important part of forming a healthy society. That will allow us the flexibility to hear and include many voices and narratives, fearlessly.

⚑ – – – – – – πŸ‘

For my final project, This time I would like to avoid all political aspects and map the one thing which I think we can agree is the closest to an objective description. Clouds – using the weather API of the open weather map, and some nice illustrations.

– H.