What is Visual Data Analysis?

Visual data analysis blends highly advanced computational methods with sophisticated graphics engines to tap the extraordinary ability of humans to see patterns and structure in even the most complex visual presentations. Currently applied to massive, heterogeneous, and dynamic datasets, such as those generated in studies of astrophysical, fluidic, biological, and other complex processes, the techniques have become sophisticated enough to allow the interactive manipulation of variables in real time. Ultra high-resolution displays allow teams of researchers to zoom into interesting aspects of the renderings, or to navigate along interesting visual pathways, following their intuitions and even hunches to see where they may lead. New research is now beginning to apply these sorts of tools to the social sciences as well, and the techniques offer considerable promise in helping us understand complex social processes like learning, political and organizational change, and the diffusion of knowledge.

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(1) How might this technology be relevant to the educational sector you know best?

  • Stated simply--which is the point of visual data analysis: we're overwhelmed by information, struggle to find what is useful and needed, and benefit from tools/technologies which literally help us see, more clearly, what is before us. It's comparable to the difference between counting on our fingers and using the most efficient calculators to calculate a sum: visual data analysis tools free us up to think about and use the data rather than spending considerable amounts of time in trying to organize it before we begin the real work--the analysis itself. - paul.signorelli paul.signorelli Oct 5, 2010
  • With massive amounts of information available on nearly every subject there is a need for tools to retrieve and manipulate the data and skills to be able to visualize meaningful patterns, the ability to identify the parts, see how they fit together, derive meaning and make predictions. This process leads to an important educational outcome - higher-order thinking. - wshapiro wshapiro Oct 14, 2010
  • I'd like to add this to other areas such as Collective Intelligence and even Cloud Computing. As others have said there is an overload of data and information, increasingly new ways of interrogating, analysing, interpreting and ultimately understanding that data will be required and welcomed. Within the field of collective intelligence, for example, tools that can navigate through the data and display not only and end result but how that is changing over time will be increase our insight in teaching and learning. I guess I want the Twitter Trends Map for education- Gavin Gavin Oct 17, 2010
  • The ability to see pattern and structure in the churn and turn of online and physical interaction, the free flow of data and data management will prove invaluable for decision making and making sense of your environment. - DaveP DaveP Oct 18, 2010

(2) What themes are missing from the above description that you think are important?

  • Nothing to add. - paul.signorelli paul.signorelli Oct 5, 2010
  • see note above - Gavin Gavin Oct 17, 2010
  • There is some very interesting work being done in this area, however, the overwhelming majority of this research is based entirely on recognizing patterns withing the visual data on a stand-alone basis. In the long-term this may well be possible, however, using any associated audio data to contextualize the visual patterns will be key to more quickly training the pattern recognition mechanisms. Of course their is the potential of creating bias in the models when utilizing this process, however, think we need to think more in terms of multimedia data analysis as opposed to strictly visual data analysis. - phil.ice phil.ice Oct 17, 2010
  • Real time data patterns - DaveP DaveP Oct 18, 2010

(3) What do you see as the potential impact of this technology on teaching, learning, or creative expression?

  • As we move to an increasing amount of information that results from experiments and simulations in various application fields, visual data analysis should help learners investigate and explore salient aspects of their data more quickly and more easily.- bdieu bdieu
  • More time putting data to productive use and less time spend simply trying to understand it.
  • I think this is a very ripe area for adoption in education. As the tools get easier and the data more massive, using data for creative visualization uses can be powerful across many different disciplines. Journalism in particular has started to adopt visual data analysis to help tell stories in new ways. See http://www.readwriteweb.com/cloud/2010/10/10-tools-for-online-journalism.php This story is related to the Guardian story linked below - KeeneH KeeneH Oct 16, 2010
  • It's not new but Hans Rosling's gapminder remains my favourite see http://www.gapminder.org. I would never have looked at that data about changing economic circumstances in countries across the world without it. Equally, simple class room tools such as those being produced by Data Harvest (http://www.dataharvest.co.uk/home.php?&mlev=1&show=2&title=Home) are being used in the class room to assist children in visualising and understanding science - these can grow in sophistication - Gavin Gavin Oct 17, 2010
  • Data is emerging everywhere and we must seek to harness it, from how students study, to where they are to how they use resources to how much resources cost - by being better informed quickly by demonstrating data in an expressive way we can contribute to learning and study and also to our paymasters! - DaveP DaveP Oct 18, 2010
  • Seeing new relationships- I love the social networking visualizations that Tony Hirst has been doing like http://blog.ouseful.info/2010/10/18/friends-of-the-community-whos-effectively-following-a-hashtag/ - alan alan Oct 18, 2010

(4) Do you have or know of a project working in this area?

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