Data Journalism Reading Week 1

Thinking with Type/The Language of New Media

The reading encourages us to think of text not just as a static piece of information but in fact a dynamic work that contains several bits of meta-data to help us interpret it in our own way. It’s amazing to me how letters and alphabet can take on such different meaning when represented with a slightly different way. Especially in the digital era where we communicate so heavily with text, a simple variation like typing in all caps can change the entire tone of a sentence to make it look like the author is yelling. Subtle cues such as indentations of paragraphs indicate self contained boxes of information or limited chunks of ideas.

Another important way to consider information is it’s non-linear representation. Databases are often nothing but mountains of text with no end and no beginning. Yet we still manage to make sense of it or at least provide a framework for the user to make sense of it. This is where the real challenge of design originates, to take something with a non-linear structure and transfer the information while maintaining that non-linear structure. We are hard wired as humans to have information with an end and a beginning but most of our knowledge is gained spatially. More importantly it is accessed spatially as well. This is how we need to design data transfer in our applications. Indeed this is what separates a data visualization from a news story.

Manovich writes that new media is designed to be accessed in two ways, it is either a database with a user interface designed to access it (like websites) or it is navigating through spatial representations of data, (like video games). While the first one is sort of a pedestrian call-and-answer design for accessing information, the second one is a more immersive experience and probably closer to the real human learning and adapting experience which makes it so powerful. It is essentially transferring data to us subconsciously rather than consciously and linearly.





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