Data Visualization Critique Wk 10

This week I decided to go for something a little lighter than the usual data sets

http://inception-explained.com/

Its a website that is basically one big infographic that walks you through the entire plot of a film, the cerebral thriller “Inception”.

Having seen the movie and thinking I understood it then, there was a lot of things made much clearer with the infographic and I think it’s a great example of using a visualization to better explain something rather than text.

Writing out the plot for Inception is relatively easy if the movie makes sense to you, but explaining it to someone who doesn’t get it could be quite the challenge. That’s where this visualization works. It introduces all the major characters and their roles as colored disks so we can keep track of their movements throughout the film.

It also cleverly has subtle artwork in the background that viewers will remember from the movie. This artwork designates what level or what dream sequence you are currently in. If that isn’t immediately apparent, the levels are helpfully labelled at the top.

By scrolling down, you not only advance the plot of the movie, you also go “deeper” into the dream levels, progressing through, Dream, Dream within a Dream, Dream within a Dream within a Dream and then finally, limbo. (once again, makes sense if you’ve seen the movie at least once!)

There are also simple animations to denote who is sleeping, who has been killed and who is waking up from their dream.

One of the biggest issues with the design of this visualization is that it is not immediately apparent that you have to keep scrolling down for it to work. I initially spent time looking for a play button, thinking the whole thing would be an animation, which it kinda is, but it only works through scrolling. My first impulse was to click on the ‘how did it work arrow” but that was an indication to scroll down.

With the continuous scrolling, the animation begins to look rough and jagged and not smooth as we would expect.  This may not be such a bad thing as it allows us to control the pace at which we advance through the plot but it can get tiresome having to keep scrolling for tiny bits of movement on the screen.

On the whole however, the visualization does achieve its objective in explaining the plot of a fairly confusing film. While the technique here has been used for something frivolous, its a good example of how we could tell a narrative story through a visualization rather than text, especially if it was overly complicated and if the characters all had several links to each other. This might be the future of narrative stories, especially involving technical descriptions or processes where the author doesn’t want to waste space using words.

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One thought on “Data Visualization Critique Wk 10

  1. susanemcg says:

    This reminds me of the “Sergei & Larry” piece we looked at, which uses the same technique (I would not be surprised if it was the same developer). I like the that this plays with a new kind of interaction format, but was a little disappointed to see that it doesn’t work on mobile (or at least on Android) despite the fact that the scrolling interaction seems almost ideally suited for it.

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