In the Ethics of Data Viz, a gifted lecturer from U Miami presented an abbreviated version of his upcoming book about being truthful with graphics.
Alberto Cairo suggested these were the 5 features of great viz:
1. Truthful (be honest, don’t lie to yourself)
2. Functionality (be clear, and use appropriate tools)
3. Beautiful (bring attention to relevant info)
4. Insightful (reveal hidden truths)
5. Enlightening (don’t forget the primary goal is to contrubue to understanding)
“If I only use words, I am forcing you to imagine all those things in your mind,” he said. “What I am doing when I create the graphic… Is to take the effort out of your brain and put it on the paper.”
Cairo’s first pilar also brought him to the topic of ethics, asking whether a story is being told ethically as opposed to legally. He also pushed back against the “ethically dubious” Prop8 maps project and another angenda-driven cable company data project.
He called it “The modern jungle of spin dishonesty punditry and the resulting widespread mistrust.”
Ethics, he argued, depends on core goal of improving understanding of issues while trying to minimize the harm of the activity. But suggests that this shouldn’t just be a journalistic goal, should be a civic goal for everyone.
“Truth is not an absolute, truth is a continuum. We can be true and we can be truer,” he said.
Cairo supports the promise of mainstream visualization with new, free tools., but said the duty falls to us to teach good practices.