Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Visualize Data (Hey Left Brain, Meet Your Right Brain)

As I recall the left brain is considered to be the half that drives logic, analysis, and linear thinking. On the other hand, the right brain drives creativity. People who think in pictures are right-brained. Daniel Pink has argued in his book A Whole New Mind that the future belongs to folks who can master the skills (attributes) typically associated with the right brain.

The folks over at the Visual Communication Lab have created an application that brings the right brain to bear on a traditionally left brain activity, data analysis. The application, Many Eyes, has the "goal to "democratize" visualization and to enable a new social kind of data analysis." That's right, "new social kind of data analysis." Many Eyes has a number of features that encourage collaborative data analysis including, comments, HTML for blogging about your visualization, and requirements that all data are public. For example, I found a visualization that was created by comparing temperature deviations to CO2 levels for the past 420,000 years. This visualization (below) includes 17 comments where other analysts have reworked the data and noticed a variety of patterns. Some of the results are staggering.

Imagine a scenario where students uploaded data that they found on the Internet, created a visualization, and then the class was invited to comment. The student could also blog about their interpretation (or reading) of the data. They could also invite experts or students from other parts of the world to participate in the discussion on Many Eyes. Take this a step further. What if groups of students were collecting their own data and loaded these to Many Eyes. For example, water quality at the South Platte River, air quality in Commerce City by day of year and temperature, or soil pH and/or temperature along a gradient at the new high school site.

Is this Real World?

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