02/28: The Innocent Infographic

“Information does not exist in a natural state, available to the light of reason in the form of knowledge ordered to display itself in a self-evident way. Not at all.- if that would be the case, designers would only have to follow the natural way of presenting information. …the distance between us and Edward Tufte: Tufte also goes on to say that, “Graphics reveal data.” The conviction that information exists outside of- or in advance of- the presentation of data in graphical form is problematic, even inaccurate, from both a theoretical and a practical point of view.”     -Johanna Drucker, Graphesis: Visual knowledge production and representation, 2007

This quote was offered during a lecture entitled “Visual Epistomology // Visual Epistemology  //  [relational systems]” given by Dr. Gaia Scagnetti. She described four types of systems as followed: simple (the domain of best practice or systems with one optimum setting); complicated (domain of the expert or requiring practice for understanding); complex (domain of emergence or without predetermined outcome); chaotic (domain of rapid response or tactical rather than strategic intervention). She focused her talk on the dramatic rise of infographics as journalistic tool and means of dealing with both a huge increase in information availability and the ease with which information is able to be stored. Her main point was, similar to the way a map comes with embedded biases which often go unnoticed, these infographics frame arguments in very specific and deliberate ways. To claim that they are ‘neutral’ is ,as Johanna Drucker mentioned, both inaccurate and problematic.

complex systems diagram

Above are slides depicting qualities of complex systems and diagrams. Also mentioned were examples in popular culture, firstly daytum.com then feltron.com.

daytum feltron report

One project mentioned in a previous week was Laura Kurgan’s Million Dollar Blocks which mapped out state funding for prisoners based on address, which aggregates to show how much money government spends on locking up its citizens. Implicit in this description is the notion that the government is not spending much on other government services to possibly preempt criminal activity or generally improve the welfare and investment citizens have in their neighborhoods.

million dollar blocks bangladesh economy

For studio this semester I am creating infographics to describe the macro economy of Banlgadesh and the process of recycling electronic waste in Dhaka. Above is a diagram explaining the relationship between labor and capital in the broad sectors of the Bangladesh economy. Notice the concentration of wealth in industries like mining and energy as compared to agriculture. Nothing particularly novel but there were choices involved in how to illustrate information which adds an editorial authorship to the image.

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