If you’re not familiar with the website for TED (Technology, Education, and Design) Talks, you are missing out on a great resource that also happens to be free.  Suffice to say for now that the TED events are expensive ($6000), exclusive (fill out an application just to be eligible to pay the 6K), and according to attendees – well worth it.  Fortunately, the Powers That Be at TED decided back in 2007 that if they were really about “Ideas Worth Spreading” then they probably should unshackle them.  For anyone who has to teach or present, these talks represent a mini-master class in communicating in the one-to-many model.  For those looking to see content experts, there are plenty of those.  And for futurists, think-tank wannabes, and people sincerely looking to be inspired to create change – TED has those talks in spades as well.

I recently viewed a TED talk by data journalist David McCandless on The Beauty of Data Visualization.  I decided to watch the video because we’ve been dabbling with data visualization for displaying some of our research findings.  Employing data visualization techniques appears to be growing trend in informatics as one way to help process the unprecedented volume of data that can be accumulated in a relatively short time. 

It turns out McCandless also wrote the book The Visual Miscellaneum: A Colorful Guide to the World’s Most Consequential Trivia, which a student had given to me earlier this year (Köszönöm!).  The technique is akin to a visual version of performing a content analysis to find what themes emerge in qualitative research.   In that way it can also act as its own information filter, detect patterns that are not readily apparent, give context to potentially misleading ‘facts’, and prompt further lines of inquiry.  This book has a little more modern, pop-science feel than the more precise works by Tufte, but definitely prompted me to think about things a bit differently…and that is a pretty big value itself.

The TED video was quite good and had some clever bits such as the examination of military budgets by raw numbers versus as a percentage of GDP, followed by the number of soldiers by country and then per 100,000 people.  It’s a little specialized, but if you’re interested in the topic – it is a treat.

@kevinclauson

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