The Mechanics of Visualization in Today’s World

Last week, before Superstorm Sandy struck the east coast I started to read the first six pages of Lev Manovich’s What Is Visualization? After losing power and getting it back two days later, I went back on my laptop to finish reading the essay and then went about reading Manovich’s second essay Media Visualization: Visual Techniques for Exploring Large Media Collections. In both essays, Manovich notes that visualization has experienced a large boom in this century due to significant technological innovations such as Facebook and Twitter, however, in each essay, he focuses on a specific form of visualization.

In What Is Visualization?, Manovich talks about information visualization (aka infovis), which, like DH itself, is a concept that is hard to define. One definition that Manovich gives for infovis is that “Information visualization utilizes computer graphics and interaction to assist humans in solving problems.” In order to make infovis a distinct form of visualization, Manovich compares it with scientific visualization. While scientific visualization uses numerical data and 3D graphics, information visualization uses non-numerical data and 2D graphics. He also notes that the principles of reduction and space are important to infovis because they are used in order to reveal patterns and structures that make up 1% of a data object’s characteristics.

I actually found Manovich’s second essay to be more interesting and more straightforward. In this essay, he talks about media visualization (aka direct visualization), which creates new representations of  media from a form of media that already exists. Unlike information visualization, media visualization has no relationship with  reduction and space. I found it very amazing when Manovich used the popular videogame franchise Kingdom Hearts (one of my favorite video game titles) as an example of a form of existing media used in media visualization. He mentions that he and his team used a process known as temporal sampling to convert many hours of Kingdom Hearts I and II gameplay into a single sequence made up of thousands of single frames. Judging from Manovich and his team’s actions during this particular undertaking, I believe that it is necessary for DHers to work with video games and computer graphics as much as they do with academic texts and scholarly information because by doing so, the field of DH can further expand and attract more supporters and potential DH contributers.

After exposing myself to Lev Manovich’s essays in recent days, I definitely look forward to seeing him on Skype on December 3.

3 Responses to The Mechanics of Visualization in Today’s World

  1. Matthew K. Gold (he/him) November 6, 2012 at 12:43 am #

    Thanks, Jonathan — but Lev will be with us in person on Dec. 3.

  2. Lev Manovich November 6, 2012 at 12:27 pm #

    Jonathan, I am glad you found my articles useful. Get your questions ready for Dec. 3rd class.

  3. Jonathan Conrad Maxwell November 6, 2012 at 1:23 pm #

    I defintiely will Mr. Manovich- see you then!

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