Video Visualizations

Hey all. I just wanted to post a quick link to a really cool data visualization group’s site. They are called 422 South and do a lot of cinematic data visualizations (similar to my post a few weeks ago about data visualizations). A repository of their data visualization work is available here:

Here is a montage of some of their data visualizations as well:

I think this cinematic quality of data visualizations is something that seems to be underrepresented in the readings for this week. Much of Tufte’s work deals with creating and displaying static visualizations (for example, within the text of a monograph).   Jessop mentions that data visualizations require a a “visual literacy” that is related to how we look at:

  • “Galleries of images.
  • Museums and collections of objects,
  • Film, Television, and other moving images
  • Dramatic re-creations
  • Maps and atlases
  • Pictures of data…
  • …Single Images” (Jessop 286)

But Jessop’s focus is certainly focused on how we look at data visualizations as still images. His article purposefully glosses over the part on “film, television, and other moving images.” Theibault briefly mentions “cinematic mapping,” and Drucker does not talk about video, animation, or cinematic display at all in his piece.

Since I have become introduced to digital humanities and data visualizations (so the past year or so), I’ve noticed an increasing number of video visualizations, particularly on humanities projects. Videos are easier to create these days and videos allow us in the humanities to demonstrate change over time in a way that two-dimensional visualizations do not. Sure static visualizations have been effective at finding ways to incorporate a temporal component, but video and animation gives us the opportunity to manipulate an image over a set period of time (scaled and correlated to an actual interval of time). Check out this recent post on the Infectious Texts Project here at Northeastern: (

Most of the visualizations included in this article are video visualizations. Here is an example:

Even our professor, Ben Schmidt, utilizes video visualizations in his work on the whaling logs (

Or take a look at many of the videos at the Spatial History Project at Stanford such as Railroaded.

I mention all these video visualizations just to point out that I think this seems to be an under-theorized part of looking at, analyzing, and creating visualizations. It seems to me that although video visualizations are not a new phenomena, it has certainly become easier to make video visualizations and to make them available (youtube and other video hosting sites). I definitely do not have time to do this in a blog post, but I do think it is important that we theorize and provide critique for these video visualizations as something similar but distinct from static visualizations and graphs. Hopefully we can discuss this more tonight!

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