August 13, 2007, 11:11 am
By Mac McBurney
This project from IBM’s Alphaworks is like Flickr for information visualizations. Warning: Contents may be addicting (especially for readers of Information Design Watch).
From the site: “Many Eyes is a bet on the power of human visual intelligence to find patterns. Our goal is to “democratize” visualization and to enable a new social kind of data analysis.” Hear, hear!
Post a data set, then choose one of the predefined visualization types. Or, let other users find clever ways to graph the data. Browse “topic hubs,” post comments and ratings, save your favorites to a watch-list. You get the idea. On the horizon: ordinary users can post visualizations, not just data. The possibilities are even more dazzling than the work so far.
I’d take it a step further and say Many Eyes is quite a bit more than Flickr for data viz. With Many Eyes, data becomes an interactive experience and users are invited to explore and discuss uploaded data.
Posted by ncy111 on August 13, 2007 at 9:17 pm
Your comment made me reconsider my similie. (Many Eyes “is like Flickr for info viz…”) This kind of question comes up a lot at work — how far can an analogy be extended before it is no longer valid. It’s a good question. Here’s what I came up with.
I don’t claim deep expertise in either system, but the virtues you attibute to Many Eyes seem to fit both Flickr and Many Eyes. “With [Flickr/Many Eyes], [photographs/data] become an interactive experience and users are invited to explore and discuss uploaded [photographs/data].” Interactive experience? Check. Invited to explore and discuss? Check and check.
So far, I can appreciate the commenter’s sentimental preference for Many Eyes (and his apparent expertise in info viz.), but I don’t hear anything that sounds unlike Flickr.
So where does the analogy break down? What description would be more precise and capture the real differences? Here’s one difference: We could say that Flickr uses two layers of information (photos and commentary about photos) while Many Eyes has three (numbers, visualizations, commentary). I think this disaggregation of data from visualization is what gives Many Eyes such a sense of potential.
What would be the analogous feature in Flickr? Perhaps some users could upload RAW files (raw data from the camera) and let others re-color, re-explose and re-crop the displayed images? I know, the analogy doesn’t really hold up, and it contradicts some basic notions about photography and the creative act, but it raises some intriquing (if unrealistic) notions. How about a way to appropriate Flickr photos into new photo essays or collages? (No thanks.) Would a free-standing visualization framework for camera sensor data be more than just another Photoshop filter?
Posted by Mac McBurney on August 14, 2007 at 2:09 am