Data Visualization & Social Change

On Friday, March 5th, President Obama appointed four people to the Recovery Independent Advisory Panel. One of those people is Edward Tufte, author of The Visual Display of Quantitative Information, practically the bible of data visualization. As posted on Tufte’s blog, the panel was created in 2009 with two goals:

To provide transparency in relation to the use of Recovery-related funds.
To prevent and detect fraud, waste, and mismanagement.

Its mission statement is:

To promote accountability by coordinating and conducting oversight of Recovery funds to prevent fraud, waste, and abuse and to foster transparency on Recovery spending by providing the public with accurate, user-friendly information.

I’m once again teaching my course on information design and visualization this semester, and in my introduction the first day of class, I suggested that it is a skill that is becoming more and more important in our society. I pointed out its prevalence in everything from advertising to politics. As Nathan Shedroff stated in his essay, Information Interaction Design: A Unified Field Theory of Design,

One of the most important skills for almost everyone to have in the next decade and beyond will be those that allow us to create valuable, compelling, and empowering information and experiences for others.

It can be a powerful tool to help or hinder social change. As such, I’m intrigued to see Tufte in this position and anxious to learn what he will be contributing.

  1. designaday posted this
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