Academic journal article Journal of Information Ethics

Visual Revelations: Graphical Tales of Fate and Deception from Napoleon Bonaparte to Ross Perot

Academic journal article Journal of Information Ethics

Visual Revelations: Graphical Tales of Fate and Deception from Napoleon Bonaparte to Ross Perot

Article excerpt

Visual Revelations: Graphical Tales of Fate and Deception from Napoleon Bonaparte to Ross Perot Howard Wainer. New York: Copernicus Springer-Verlag, 1997.

How do we derive meaning from data displays? Researchers, students and publishers have much to gain from improving the clarity and usefulness of their visual messages. If they can only read a single book on how to create e∂ective graphical data displays, this should be it. In a slim 162 page volume, Howard Wainer both educates and entertains.

His short introduction gives us an historical context for understanding innovations in data display, many of which have occurred in the last two hundred years. Examples throughout the book range, as the title suggests, from about 1800 to the present. His delightful first chapter, "How to Display Data Badly," is an excellent primer on how to obfuscate, confuse, or convey no information at all. I have used it as an assigned reading with favorable results in my graduate research methods class, since the book was first published. Not only do the students learn from the poor and good examples, but many have been drawn into reading the entire volume. Ultimately, I see results in the improved clarity and usefulness of data displays in their papers.

The second section of the book covers graphical innovations that e∂ectively made "di[double dagger]cult problems trivial" (55). The third and fourth sections cover graphical forms and using graphical methods, and the final section covers improving graphical presentations. This is especially helpful and covers integrating text and figures, impact and aesthetics of graphical displays and making readable overhead displays. …

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