Author: elianayu

Blog Post 16 • Wysocki


I find Wysocki’s writing on beauty to be well-parsed and intellectually intriguing.  I’m appreciative of how she gently shapes our understanding of Bang, Anarheim and Kant’s conceptualizations as they inform her arguments. Yet as always, I cannot help but to despair in what I haven’t fully comprehended and engaged with her main points in her treatise. She spends a long time gathering impetus for why she thinks what she thinks, which is all well and good when one is trying to introduce new thinking to a field, but is an approach I find difficult to respond to, when her thesis can be summarized in her own words – that it’s dangerous and dehumanizing to separate form from the meanings inherent in form.

I mean, I agree with that assertion, yet find her discussion of beauty to be inherently tied up in the moral realms of social ethics, and think she spends a long time circumventing and sidestepping that tie. I don’t think she provided other examples of dangerous form/meaning separations outside of the objectification of women’s bodies. I mean, what I did understand was that eventually she does outright say that it outrages her that objectification can be lumped into discussions of aesthetics, purely as aesthetics. I definitely agree that regardless of the men who can look at a naked female body without thinking of its sexual implications, naked female bodies placed in the center of a piece of art operate on a position of assumed centralization in egoic attention (how’s that for wordy academic discussion).


Take this above diagram for example, found from a Google Images search and taken from a fitness industry book by Bret Contreras, which could be sure to make Wysocki angry because it blatantly serves up a model for objectification of a human body part. What’s interesting is that this particular model does not differentiate between male or female rear ends. It simply dictates form that can be achieved through fitness. Undifferentiated from its context, this diagram could seem to be a hallmark of the Nazi-efficiency thinking that Katz’s work presents as so deplorable. However, in context, the diagram regains more humanity by appealing to the social desire to impress and succeed among other people.

Can the CRAP principles be applied to this diagram as well? What makes you care about this discussion and how did the Wysocki reading change your understanding of art, aesthetics and beauty?

Blog Post 15 • Jenkins (Snowmen)


Our reading for today provided a clear depiction of how YouTube has been playing an active role in redistributing power in politics. One ambiguity that I think Jenkins’ writing really hits upon occurs in his final paragraph:

Too often, we have fallen into the trap of seeing democracy as an “inevitable” outcome of technological change rather than something which we need to fight to achieve with every tool at our disposal.

It’s certainly easy to imagine that giving everyone a voice in the ‘marketplace of ideas’ guarantees a democratization of civil discourse. However, as Jenkins illustrated with his retelling of the CNN/YouTube debate night, it’s not always easy to foster a truly democratic public discussion, much less one that attempted to integrate viewers as content producers themselves. I imagine that more often than not, the power of many voices contributing to one issue results in a splintered platform that would struggle against established powers, i.e., mainstream media institutions.

I think one of the most useful features of Jenkins’ discussion is his functional analysis of what YouTube is. In doing so, he scouts ground for better understanding the platform in the future. First, he affixes YouTube within a context of being in a “larger cultural economy” – a “meeting ground” wherein many different amateurs and semiprofessionals are producing, mirroring, collaborating and exchanging in all sorts of different ways. Second, says Jenkins, YouTube is an archive from which content creators are drawing public artifacts and re-presenting the public to the public. Third, YouTube content can appear and be talked about in every other social media platform. “YouTube was the first to bring all three functions [production, selection and distribution] into a single platform and direct so much attention on the role of everyday people in this changed media landscape.”

I’d forgotten to expand my understanding of YouTube as taking part in a cultural economy, as much so as Facebook and Twitter (etc.) serve as social networking resources. Thinking of YouTube in those terms shed light again on multimedia writing as the ‘social currency’ we should be understanding writing as. We sometimes think of video production as cutting & editing behind a computer, but of course amateur selfie videos can serve just as much to play a part in adding to the diverse technologies our culture has been producing and will produce.

Conclusionary infographic of YouTube not only as cultural economy but also literally economy:


In thinking of social media as currency, do you think writers should embrace digital storytelling as a gain for humanity?

Blog Post 14 • Ding


I interpreted our reading today through my understanding of the state of media practices as affected by cellphones (computerized hardware) – and alternative media (computerized software). Obviously, I would group communicable diseases such as SARS and natural disasters and identify them together as events that citizens engage in for their own self-interest and instincts to live. So it’s interesting to observe citizens engaged in public events in ways that disrupt the broken status quo, as in response to the SARS outbreak discussed by Ding. In an effort to preserve themselves and their friends, attempts to spread awareness (and, as it happens, fear) took place through every possible avenue – text messages and other alternative media. Merchants also took advantage of the resulting misinformation to spread myths or false reports, corrupting the public record itself.

There are similar trends among all institutions whenever attempts at mass communication are made. Whenever mass communication attempts to be less-than-truthful, for reasons that counter the well-being of a country’s citizens, responses erupt that break down authorities’ stories. A set of circumstances potentially harming everyone, such as the spread of a SARS outbreak, breaks down the social inhibitions that usually prevent people from access to public risks. As the events in China demonstrated, when public institutions didn’t take the initiative to maximize the protection of people exposed to the risk, people were taking action based on personal preservation.


Growing from half-true gossip about in-hospital infections to misleading rumors
about massive deadly epidemic outbreaks and food shortages, the rumors
widely circulated in Guangdong Province and other parts of China exemplified a
“noninformation” explosion, where the line between credible and noncredible information was becoming increasingly unclear and exacerbating the public’s existing
information anxiety (Wurman, 2001, p. 14).


If the same media mess situation happened today, how do you think people would have handled it now that computerization of mobile phones has progressed so much?

Blog Post 13 • Segel/Heer and Aaker


The overlap in focus from today’s Edward Segel/Jeffrey Heer reading and the Jennifer Aaker video on the power of story, was the injunction that effective storytelling must come a priori before visualizations. In other words, there must be a story to show and tell; for this reason, stories put reality into a framework that can be displayed and that can inform others. In this way, information becomes meaningful, as Aaker conceptualized. And good stories have three qualities to go by: they are memorable, impactful and personal. These qualities often rely on situating a real person or hypothetical ‘yous’ into the story. Aaker argued that visualizing statistics becomes overwhelmingly more meaningful and powerful (in comparison to statistics alone) when those statistics are in the context of stories.

So it’s fitting that Segel/Heer try to articulate how stories have been told with data in the past, specifically in the context of narrative visualization–and not necessarily in the realm of film and video, necessarily. By naming what they see across 58 different visualized narrative pieces, they attempt to gather specific tools and techniques that storytellers rely on again and again. Segel/Heer admit that they aren’t narrative experts, but they draw from the existing “design spaces” of artists and journalists in those 58 pieces they examine.

Referring to Figure 7, I tried to estimate what similaries I found within a genre just by looking at the chart itself. I found it interesting that for magazines, reader attention is directed through random access, unlike any other genre. Partitioned posters and flow charts both gave the reader the choice of what order to look at things in. But comic strips, slide shows and film/video/animations directed the readers’ attention. I also noticed that interactivity was most present in annotated graphs and maps–perhaps this is because graphs and maps are more distinctly tools for understanding geospatial data than other informative and entertaining genres.

What do you think were the limitations of the Segel and Heer reading?


Blog Post 12 • Dataviz, Tufte

Cholera & Challenger studies


Our reading today compared two cases in which data visualization functioned as the crux for key policy decision-making. I specifically thought Tufte’s analyzed well the problems with the Challenger, as broken down on p. 47 of the reading (PDF p. 22). We can also link their communication methodology to the way we do things now.

  1. The Disappearing Legend. Apparently at the late-evening hearings directly preceding the Challenger’s launch, the presenters had to use overhead projectors. This made it very difficult for viewers to keep the structure of the Thiokol engineers’ argument. As one image disappeared and the next was displayed, a sense of cohesion was lost unless the administrators were familiar with the history of the rockets and O-rings (which they could not be assumed to be).
    Application: Computerized ways of writing and presenting have progressed beyond the limitations of overhead projectors, but as presenters we still can fall into the same trap. Importantly, graphics can provide visual context for any argument we are making, but videos still possess the underwhelming capacity to be “animated” PowerPoint slides. Especially in explaining the connection across a number of examples, it’s important that viewers not get lost in the data. Metaphors have been one way presenters explain ideas better.
  2. Chartjunk. Tufte includes  a ghastly chartjunk-filled visualization in which a reader’s attention is scattered by the multiplicity of the little rocket drawings. When an entire graph is filled with lines, there’s no way its information is going to be considered a clear rendering. There’s no focal point – and the necessity of a focal point is what Tufte calls for when he says, “Good design brings absolute attentiblog-post-rocketon to data.” And I would agree with him when he says, ” Such misplaced priorities in the design of graphs and charts should make us suspicious about the competence and integrity of the analysis.”
    Application: It’s easy to see how cluttered visual graphics made a poor argument for the NASA officials who were already predisposed to launch the Challenger. “Misplaced priorities” seem to be the malaise affecting every unclear graphic representation of data visualization. Even in terms of multimedia writing, when visual graphics don’t demonstrate a clear trendline or contextual background, the meaning of a graphic is lost or very hard to find.
  3. Lack of Clarity in Depicting Cause and Effect. In the same graph, there’s a chart flaw failing to address the goal of the Thiokol presentation, which was assumedly to persuade the NASA officials that they should heed the cold temperature and not launch the rocket. “Once again, Jonson’s Principle: these problems are more than just poor design, for a lack of visual clarity in arranging evidence is a sign of a lack of intellectual clarity in reasoning about evidence.”
    Application: Even in multimedia writing, Jonson’s Principle remains relevant for us. A lack of visual clarity in connectedness to the meaning behind it directly signifies that the writing isn’t based on an ordered sense of how actual data-based evidence connects to its meaning in reality. As we saw in class, videos can be very visually soothing and aesthetically pleasing while clearly, and vexingly, unintelligible. (Remember this?)
  4. Wrong Order. (p. 49)

    Information displays should serve the analytic purpose at hand; if the substantive matter is a possible cause-effect relationship, then graphs should organize data so as to illuminate such a link. Not a complicated idea, but a profound one. Thus the little rockets must be placed in order by temperature, the possible cause. Above, the rockets are so ordered by temperature. This clearly shows the serious risks of a cold launch, for most 0-ring damage occurs at cooler temperatures. Given this evidence, how could the Challenger be launched at 29°?

    Application: Clearly, there’s a problem with not ordering statistics in the way that will most clearly link the evidence with the point at hand. This applies to every data-point journalism and persuasive speech. Most of the time, though, we’re pulling charts made from other “reputable” sources. Have you ever had difficulty identifying a faulty graph – maybe even not noticing it until someone else pointed it out to you?

Blog Post 11 • DataViz, Humans


Our readings today focused on identifying what data visualization accomplishes for us–how it shapes the stories we writers tell others and how it shapes the stories we are telling ourselves. In the article, “What if Data Visualization is Actually People?,” journalist Sarah Slobin traces the circumstances that made her realize she had been defining data purely as numbers, together with the charts and graphs that can powerfully represent numbers. The effect of this imperfect belief on her behavior was to unintentionally discount the equal power of people’s faces and names to tell the stories journalists seek to voice in the first place. Slobin reflects on the mental state she got herself into as a ‘trap’ and ‘addiction’ to feeling powerful through using data to tell stories, and encourages readers to learn a lesson from her experience. Her anecdotal writing leads us to seize upon a critique of the power of data itself:

In Jake Harris’ humanistic treatise on data visualization, he refers to empathy as the anchoring point that writers and information-understanders should found their purpose upon. Empathetic approaches to writing allow writers and readers to open themselves, their lives, and their resources to solving more problems of human life, I think he would say. He appropriately praises data visualizations that manage to depict human costs, but recognizes that for all of us, ‘Connecting with the Dots’ remains difficult if news graphics leave out what he calls ‘the near view.’

Unfortunately, many data journalism examples focus exclusively on the far distance and leave out the near view. Usually, we cede the foreground to traditional narrative treatments crafted by “traditional” journalists. I’m tempted to blame this on false newsroom dichotomies treating stories and interactives as unrelated forms of content. But too often, it’s likely that our own laziness is at fault. As tools have improved, it has become phenomenally easy to put a bunch of dots on a map or in a chart, yet the legwork of understanding the “near” of that data remains just as time-consuming. Under deadline time pressure, it’s easier to just plot the map and call it a day. But we lose something in the process.

The big takeaway for us was to be reminded that numbers on people distance people from people. This monumental effect can be used for good, as in public policy/saving lives, or for bad, as in war/evil gains:

–Addressing our last reading, “DataViz—The UnEmpathetic Art,” by Mushon Zer-Aviv, he teases apart exceptions to data visualizations that aren’t self-sufficient to generate human empathy. Previously, Slobin and Harris assumed empathy to be a good response that makes humans more moral and compassionate beings. I think they pursue a worthy audience-oriented goal–helping the masses understand their worlds in terms of more empathy for one another. But Zer-Aviv takes discusses empathy even further by asking about the moral implications of empathy as played out in decisionmaking, pointing out voices who’ve responded that feelings of empathy garner a much different course of action than an outlook of compassion. I don’t have the answer to how culpable humans should be judged on making empathetic graphics, but would agree with Harris’ recommendation on putting people first.

What do you make of data visualization as a consumer? Do these readings make you rethink your relationship to statistical data?

Below: the undeniably powerful and effectively empathic visualization of human life as cut short by gun murders

Blog Post 10 • Don’t Go Breakin’ My Heart

... Remembering to utilize the power of still graphics


going in

  • The resulting responses to Tversky’s text, as alluded to by Instructor Liddle, have allegedly been largely to (1) denounce the power of animation and instead  (2) point to its drawbacks so as to (3) find reasons not to animate. I found there was more to the matter, however.
  • Now, my instinctive reaction was to point out the fallacy of such an attitude. I railed to myself … To say that animation is not useful is to deny the power of movement to demonstrate a point—To deny the power of movement is like disqualifying dancing as a powerful form of expression or facial expressions as the “unspoken” information from a conversation—Or to entertain an even more ridiculous train of derailed thought, like saying a roadsign shouldn’t point you in the right direction or that a tour guide shouldn’t tell you what to notice about the sights you’ve paid to see. And so on and so forth. Clearly, the response of readers displays some faults (as per Liddle’s impressions). Surely, they must have misread, or maybe they are using her text to explain away their anti-animation attitudes.

my thoughts, weighing pros and cons of animating graphics after reading Tversky

  • Tversky actually throws into relief all the ways graphics have not benefited comprehension and learning or fostered insight, the way proponents of it believe. It hurts because she is getting into the hard stuff of human error here, and her analysis can serve to correct for the blindnesses of those who would institutionalize the still-new ways of animating graphics. I agree that it could be a dangerous impulse to cast animation-formed ways of presenting as the best way to convey information, because unfortunately, humans don’t always know what’s best for ourselves. In my opinion, she at least makes a pretty good case for not neglecting the power of still graphics. She really goes out of her way to point out the flawed studies that compared still graphics with animated graphics that had been assumed to be comparable.
  • Generally, I consider it pretty healthy of Tversky to be taking a hard look in critique of enthusiasm for the purpose of evaluating the direction of that enthusiasm. Considering the relative newness of animated graphics to still graphics, I view Tversky’s analysis of a popular attitude toward graphics as a well-considered call to order, however conservative and cold her approach. It’s never fun for a party’s enthusiasm to be dampened, but a friend’s wounds are faithful or whatever. I mean, I can appreciate a voice critical of the masses.


  • If we look at what Tversky is saying, we’ll find she, Tversky and Morrison do fully recognize the value of well-used graphics. Their criticism of animation seems to be founded on an attitude that statistical information specifically ought to be presented in the most truthful way possible. Fair? I think so.
  • Perhaps, however, Tversky & Co’s voices are limited or otherwise left imbalanced by the fact that they seem to leave out a discussion of all the ways animated graphics are valid outside of educational spheres. Just as with any other media, forms of expression have the power to entertain and confuse.


  • Having read Tversky now, what do you make of my motion that we utilize her validation of still graphics in our videos? For example, I think that animation in an educational/informative video still can be continuous regardless of whether a chart or graphic is animated. There’s a whole lot surrounding she doesn’t address or say why she isn’t addressing it, and she doesn’t give visual examples of the kinds of graphics she is referring to, so I didn’t feel I fully comprehended everything I read.

final advice, which does seem clear enough and doesn’t actually put down animation

“To accord with the Principle of Apprehension, animations must be slow and clear enough to observers to perceive movement, changes, and their timing, and to understand the changes in relations between the parts and the sequence of events. This means that animations should lean toward the schematic and away from the realistic, an inclination that does not come naturally to many programmers, who delight in graphic richness and realism. It also may mean annotation, using arrows or highlighting or other devices to direct attention to the processes to be conveyed and eliminating extraneous but sometimes appealing information.

I also read Tversky as though she were a bossy older sister trying to tell me what I can and cannot do. So here’s an example of an animation that might annoy her because it doesn’t serve to help you understand anything