Final Project Proposal: Information Visualization Website

The world wide web offers an unprecedented level of access to information to the average citizen. Even so, analysis of this information is dominated by a relatively limited group of businesses and government institutions. How do we encourage readings that appropriate the available data and generate new or oppositional meaning? Alternative juxtaposition and presentations of these readily available data sets can generate new social and political meanings and points of view.

To address this issue, a prototype web site will be created to allow users to easily access and juxtapose multiple data types and sources. Implementation will employ standard web technologies including Java and HTML. The design will require addressing issues of site navigation, interactivity, and modularity. The modularity will support flexibility in data set usage and data visualization parameters.

For the purposes of this project, the system will use the following primary data sets: global arms sales and production, global drug sales and production, and selected non-criminal production and exports. A secondary group of datasets, such as regional conflicts, the emerald trade, industrialization, demographic trends, and foreign aid and investment, will also be considered in terms of our programs modularity, with the aim that the system could potentially allow for individual users to bring their own data sets to the system.

The projects information design principles will be derived from sources such as the works of Edward Tufte and other data visualization experts. The design will afford a variety of data types, including the expression of quantitative and qualitative information. Quantitative data might include production levels, changes over time, flow and exchange between geographic regions, and micro readings. Qualitative data elements might include hypertext links and historical narrative.

Our complex world, as Fredric Jameson argues in Postmodernism, requires new mechanisms for cognitively mapping ourselves into it. This project will not only provide a useful exercise and learning experience in data visualization and website implementation, but might also provide new insight to an audience beyond the scope of visual culture studies.

Chaim Gingold
Carol Gill
Gunthar Hartwig

November 2001