Scientific Images and Visualisations in Digital Age. from Science to Journalism

Article excerpt

Abstract:

Science imaging and visualization (SIV) studies how visual knowledge is produced, what is the role of the image in creating science knowledge and how images diffuse into nonacademic environments. SIV is also analyzing the intersections of different forms of (visual) knowledge. Analytic journalism is form of journalism that uses cognitive, visual and storytelling techniques. It aims at explaining and creating meaning on an issue or phenomenon. This type of journalism is not simply trying to communicate science, but to produce knowledge byretrieving and analyzing disparate information and constructing a critical discourse towards other arguments and explanations.

Digital data is identified, retrieved, analyzed and communicated via a variety of media. This paper'spurpose is to examine how several data visualization tools produce knowledge and to what extent they succeed to offer appropriate and reliable tools to present data from various fields.

Keywords: analytic journalism, digital revolution, scientific imagingand visualisation, science communication

Digital revolution and science communication

Most of the newly produced data is stored in a digital form. A study conducted by Lyman & Varían (2003, University of California - Berkley) shows that 92% of all information (audio, video,print) produced world-wide in 2003 was originally in digital format. The same source estimates that almost 800 MB of recorded information is produced per person each year (it would take about 9 meters of books to store the equivalent of 800 MB of information on paper). "Remember, it's not knowledge, just data." cautioned prof. Lyman. "It takes thoughtful people using smart technologies to figure out how to make sense of all this information."

The 21st century' sdigital information revolution provides unique opportunities for information identification, retrieval, analyse and communication: a critical mass of digital data is available; analytic and computing power is diverse and cheap; powerful and easy to operate softwares are at hand.

Lenoir (2002:28) is emphasising on digital revolution's impact on the human existence: "Media inscribe our situation. We are becoming immersed in a growing repertoire of computerbasedmedia for creating, distributing, and interacting with digitized versions of the world [...] In numerous areas of our dailyactivities, we are witnessing a drive toward the fusion of digital and physical reality".

There were dramatic changes both in the information environment and in the way how modern societies relate to data. This information environment, called datasphere2, has adouble meaning (Johnson & Ross, 2001): firstly, it definesthat conceptual environment where all data exists in all forms and all media (history, news, demographics, economy, laws, entertainment); secondly, it reffers to that conceptual environment where all information-processing species reside. Furthermore, four major trends in dynamic datasphere could be identified: the definition of literacy expands; the transparency of governments, NGOs and corporations expands at a global level; the data acquisition power shifts to individuals and data indexes emerge.

Information web resources are presented in various forms: Web-accessible databases; digital libraries; virtual research instruments; virtual reality objects; simulations; multi-sited games; Web surveys; videoconferencing; search engines; crawlers3; network analysis tools; Web pages; Web site analysis; Wikipedia; Weblogs; Weblog analysis software; maps and map overlays; GoogleEarth; GIS (Geographical Information Systems4); semantic Web structures; portals; e-maillists; multimedia publications; traditional publications as pdf files; history repositories;on-line digitized collections; clinical trial databases; specializeddatabases of annotated and standardized raw research data; ontologies; monitoring systems logging every action incyberspace; podcasts etc. …

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