Visuals + Ethics

Subject: Visuals + Ethics
From: Karen Schriver <ks0e+ -at- ANDREW -dot- CMU -dot- EDU>
Date: Mon, 1 Dec 1997 16:51:08 -0500

Jessica Shultz asked about places to look for information about the
ethics of visual placement. In order to answer your question, it would
be helpful to know more specifically what this topic means to you. What
sorts of graphics are you interested in and what aspects of ethics are
you concerned with? Do you mean physical placement of visuals on the
page? Or placement in terms of their presence or absence? Or all of
these? I can refer you to research/theory in the area once you tell me
more. As you probably discovered, most of the work in this area has been
in the area of the design of quantitative graphics. There are quite a
few good books that explore the ethical problems of poorly designed
graphs and charts, the newest among them is this one:

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

Here is a summary of its contents from the info-design e-mail list.

AUTHOR: Howard Wainer

SUMMARY: This book introduces the methods and history of
presenting data by visual means, showing the reader how
to be both a better producer and consumer of graphics.
Visual Revelations sheds light on how well-done graphic
representations illuminate subtle and significant
elements of the information they represent, how
poorly-conceived graphical devices can misrepresent and
distort facts and data, and how cleverly designed
displays can be potent tools for manipulating the
viewer's perception and opinion. This book illustrates
the power of graphics with many examples: from Napoleon's
retreat from Moscow to the O'rings on the space shuttle
and from hospital mortality rates to bus schedules.
Most of the contents of this book is an adaptation of
earlier publications. Chapter 1 is an expansion of 'How
to display data badly' (1984), chapter 2 to chapter 20
are adaptations of columns that have appeared in the
statistics magazine 'Chance'.
I. Graphical Failures
Ch. 1. How to Display Data Badly
Ch. 2. Graphical Mysteries
II. Graphical Triumphs
Ch. 3. Graphical Answers to Scientific Questions
Ch. 4. Three Graphic Memorials
Ch. 5. A Nobel Graph
Ch. 6. Todai Moto Kurashi
Ch. 7. Picturing an L.A. Bus Schedule
III. Graphical Forms
Ch. 8. Humble Pie
Ch. 9. Double Y-Axis Graphs
Ch.10. Tabular Presentation
Ch.11. A Rose by Another Name
Ch.12. Trilinear Plots
Ch.13. Implicit Graphs
IV. Using Graphical Methods
Ch.14. Measuring Graphicacy
Ch.15. Graphs in the Presidential Campaign: Why Weren't
They Used More Broadly?
Ch.16. Visual Aids When Comparing an Apple to the Stars
V. Improving Graphical Presentations
Ch.17. Integrating Figures and Text
Ch.18. Elegance, Grace, Impact, and Graphical Displays
Ch.19. Sense-Lining
Ch.20. Making Readable Overhead Displays
Finally - Notes, References, Credits, Index

Hardcover, 250 pages
Price: $ 35.00 USA
Published: June 1997
Publisher: Copernicus Books (Springer)
ISBN: 0-387-94902-X

good luck!

karen schriver
KSA, Document Design and Research, or

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