Information is Beautiful

For this assignment I wanted to post two reactions to cultural heritage sites: one that could be considered “cultural heritage” in the more traditional sense (the Archimedes’ Palimpsest website, see other post below), and one that I expect might one day serve as an artifact of great import, as it aims to capture the zeitgeist of our present Information Age.

The latter is the Information is Beautiful website (http://www.informationisbeautiful.net/), from David McCandless, author of The Visual Miscellaneum. While this site does not feature what might be considered traditional artifacts, nor does it center on ancient (or even 20th century) history, it actively creates digital mementos that reflect the issues, concerns, and spirit of present-day information enthusiasts (i.e. us…) McCandless and others gather headlines and topics of interest from the news, blogs, television, word of mouth, etc. and build and assemble graphics to convey that information visually.

Here are a few visualizations worth looking at:

Semi-controversial, political one: http://www.informationisbeautiful.net/leftvright_US.html

Swine flu vaccination one: http://www.informationisbeautiful.net/2009/is-the-h1n1-swine-flu-vaccine-safe/

Apocalypse one: http://www.informationisbeautiful.net/visualizations/2012-the-end-of-the-world/

Time travel one (my favorite): http://www.informationisbeautiful.net/visualizations/timelines/

I see value not only in the graphics themselves, which say something about what is on our collective mind at this moment (e.g. volcanic ash, swine flu, military strategy in Afghanistan, bipartisanship, etc.), but also in the site as an aggregate. I think it speaks to our current preoccupation with visual representation and design innovation, and whether this is yet another fad (see CNN’s “Magic Wall”…) or a real sea change stemming from the work of Edward Tufte, this website captures something very important about our digital cultural heritage.

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