Visualizing and understanding uncertainty (Sponsored by Society for News Design)
Information graphics trigger an illusion of certainty, precision and even control over the situation they describe. But how often do we, as infographics and data visualization designers, really think deeply about whether most readers understand that the line in a time-series line chart has a fuzzy cloud of uncertainty behind it? Or if the 63.3 percent probability of winning a football game that we're reporting on could be rounded to 60 percent, and more clearly expressed as a 3 out of 5 chances? In some cases, statistics, as a discipline, can help us work out margins of error, but in other cases, the mathematics is frustratingly silent about the best strategy for expressing a range of plausible outcomes. How do we give data their wobble back? Join us in a conversation about the challenges of visualizing uncertainty in figures developed for broad audiences, and strategies for representing it effectively.
Alberto Cairo is the Knight Chair in Visual Journalism at the University of Miami, after two decades in journalism doing infographics, animations, and data visualizations. Alberto is the author of the books "The Functional Art" and "The Truthful Art", both about infographics and data visualization. He also is an independent consultant with technology companies.
Jen Christiansen is senior graphics editor at Scientific American, where she art directs and produces data visualizations and illustrated graphics. She began her publishing career at Scientific American as an intern in 1996, moved to DC to join the art department at National Geographic, spent four years as a freelance science communicator, then rejoined the SciAm team in 2007. @ChristiansenJen
Mark Hansen is a Professor in the Columbia Journalism School where he also serves as director of the Brown Institute for Media Innovation. Prior to joining Columbia, he was a professor in the Department of Statistics at UCLA. Hansen began his career as a Member of the Technical Staff at Bell Laboratories in Murray Hill, NJ. He holds a BS in Applied Math from UC Davis, and a PhD and MA in Statistics from UC Berkeley. @cocteau
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