Democratizing visualization

I learned today about IBM Research's Many Eyes, available at alphaWorks. Although at first sight it seems simply a nice tool to create nice visualizations, its goal is to enable collaboration around visualizations.

In Fernanda B. Viégas' words, the intend is "to enable people to collectively reason about the trends and patterns they see on the vivid representations of data called visualizations", or "distributed data analysis and collaborative sensemaking".

How? You can upload data sets. You can create visualizations of them. You can discuss the visualizations, highlighting parts of them.

You are not sold into the power of good visualizations? Check out Hans Rosling's Debunking third-world myths with the best stats you’ve ever seen TEDTalk (aka No More Boring Data, as posted on youtube). Or play with a tool similar to the one that he uses in the presentation, at http://tools.google.com/gapminder.

And whatever you think about Many Eyes, Hans Rosling, logarithms or baseball, do go and check the improved TED site.

Update: It seems that Many Eyes is not the only project in this area. From an article by Fernanda and Martin Wattenberg,

We think that social data analysis is a lively area right now and we are not the only ones exploring this space - two other sites of note are Swivel and Data360. Each of the 3 sites has a different emphasis, but what we have in common is a belief that the web enables a new, social kind of data analysis; a type of statistical thinking that is both playful and serious.
Social Data Analysis. Nice term.

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