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Posts: 60
Reply with quote  #1 
Let's have some fun here. Back in August Stephen Few wrote about the book Brain Rules, and how it should be required reading in the Information Age. As usual, Stephen is right on, what a book!

Let me share with you a quote from Dr. Medina concerning visual processing in our brain.

"Here's what the brain loves more than anything else, it wants a rotating, moving, three dimensional image. The last thing we pay attention to is a a static, non-moving visual image." This quote was taken from this video at 3 minutes 4 seconds. The entire 7 minute video is well worth watching.

Many of us on this board make static, non-moving visual images for our livelihood. Some even sell wonderful books filled with insightful examples of them. Nevertheless, I wonder, is there a way to apply what Dr. Medina is telling us to our craft?

Most of us here are familiar (or should be) with the work of Dr. Hans Rosling and his great bubble plot movies ala trendalyzer, but those seem to only work when presented by a narrator, and they work really well when the presenter is Hans Rosling. And they aren't 3D. Is there a middle ground between things like the work of a company like Xplane and static, non-moving visual images? In short, is there a way to engage our audience with rotating, moving, three dimensional images while also providing high-quality, insightful, information visualization?

Lastly, please know that I'm not advocating 3D or Xplane type visualizations here. I've yet to find a place for 3D in any of my work and the Xplane movies, while fun to watch, don't seem to stick. I'm simply asking a question and looking for feedback from a group of information visualizers whose opinions I respect.

John C. Munoz


Posts: 853
Reply with quote  #2 

Thanks for initiating this discussion. I'll add a couple observations to fuel further thinking.

While actual 3-D, rotating objects are engaging and can be useful when examined in the real world (for example, a globe), it isn't necessarily true that a representation of a 3-D object on a 2-D surface such as a computer screen is equally useful, although it might have similar appeal. In the real world, experiencing things with all of our senses--not just vision--is useful for learning, but not all of our senses are necessarily useful for perceiving abstract information (for example, financial information). In other words, Medina's observation is not necessarily an argument for pseudo-3D representations of abstract information, which has no physical form, on a computer.

Another point to consider is one that scientists who study visual perception sometimes make, which is that we don't possess true 3-D vision. Our perception of depth, compared to other aspects of visual perception, is so weak that scientists sometimes talk about it as 2.5D rather than 3D. In fact, even this is an exaggeration. It might be more appropriate to speak of 2.1D visual perception, given our limited ability to perceive depth.

What is engaging to our sensory system is not always what is effective for information display, especially when the objective is to make sense of and present abstract quantitative information.


Stephen Few
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