Introduction to Data Visualization

COMS W 4995 014 (3 pts)
Instructor: Agnes Chang (ac3882), office hours by appt.
IAs: Vasudha Rengarajan (vr2375; Wed. 2:30-4:30p @ TA room), Amal Alabdulkarim (aa4235; Thu. 11a-1p @ TA room)
Class Time: Tues. 6:10-8pm
Room: 963 EXT Schermerhorn
Class Slack
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Fall 2019 Final Projects


This course is a hands-on introduction to design principles, theory, and software techniques for visualizing data. Classes will be a combination of lecture, design studio, and lab. Through readings, design critique and code assignments, students will learn how visual representations can help in the understanding of complex data, and how to design and evaluate visualizations for the purpose of analysis or communication. Students will develop skills in processing data, and building interactive visualizations using D3. Topics include visual perception, exploratory data analysis, task analysis, graphic design, narrative, etc.

Students should have experience in JavaScript programming and web development, as well as familiarity with databases and data formats. You should be comfortable picking up new programming tools on your own. Experience in Python or R for data processing is helpful but not required.


  Class Reading Assigned Due
9/4 Introduction: why visualize? schedule and expectations.
• Visual Explanations, Chp. 2 Excerpt, by Tufte, E. 2007.
How to be creative & How to be critical, Andrew Ko. 2017.
• Lateral Thinking, Excerpts, Edward deBono, 1967.
A2.1 Vis Design: divergence assigned  
9/10 Designing: form vs. function, generating ideas, iterating, and critique.
• Semiology of Graphics, Excerpt, Jacques Bertin, 1967.
A Tour through the Visualization Zoo. Jeffrey Heer, Michael Bostock, and Vadim Ogievetsky. ACM. 2010.
Visualization Analysis and Design, Chp. 2.1–2.5 by Munzner, T. 2014.
Optional: The Eyes Have It: A Task by Data Type Taxonomy for Information Visualizations, Ben Shneiderman, 1996
A2.2 Vis Design: revisions assigned  
9/17 Data Models: data types, task types, corresponding visualization formats.
Chp 6: Analytical Patterns from Now You See It by Stephen Few, 2009.
Polaris: A System for Query, Analysis and. Visualization of Multi-dimensional Relational Databases by Stolte, C. et. al. ACM 2008.
Postmortem of an Example, Jacques Bertin, 1981.
Optional: A Layered Grammar of Graphics, Wickham, H. 2010.
Optional: Bad Data Guide by Quartz data team
A3 Exploratory Data Analysis: assigned A2 Design DUE
9/24 Data Exploration: EDA, data wrangling and Tableau.
Understanding Comics, Chp. 5,7,8, by Scott McCloud
Chp. 3: The Power of Representation in Things That Make Us Smart by Norman, D. 1993.
Visual Display of Quantitative Information, Chp. 2,4,5, by Tufte, E. 2007
Optional: D3: Data-Driven Documents. Michael Bostock, Vadim Ogievetsky, Jeffrey Heer. InfoVis 2011.
10/1 Visual Encoding: marks, channels, expressiveness & effectiveness.
Interactive Dynamics for Visual Analysis. Jeffrey Heer & Ben Shneiderman. 2012.
Ladder of Abstraction by Bret Victor, 2011.
In Defense of Interactive Graphics, Gregor Aisch, 2017.
Optional: Mastering Hued Color Scales, Gregor Aisch, 2013.
A4.1 Interactive: static assigned A3 EDA DUE
10/8 Interaction: overview vs. details, small multiples, brushing, etc
Visualization Analysis and Design, Chp. 3.1–3.4, 4.1–4.6 by Munzner, T. 2014.
The Design of Everyday Things, Chp.1 by Norman, D. 1988.
Now You See It, Chp. 3 by Stephen Few, 2009.
39 Studies About Human Perception in 30 Minutes by Kennedy Elliott.
Optional: Design and Redesign in Data Visualization by Viegas & Wattenberg, 2015.
A4.2 Interactive: dynamic assigned  
10/15 Evaluation and Perception: a framework for analysis; how we see, color and attention theory.
  Study for midterm  
10/22 Midterm Exam. Creating Usability with Motion, by Willenskomer, I. 2017
Chp 5: Analytical Techniques from Now You See It by Stephen Few, 2009.
Powers of Ten(video), Charles & Ray Eames, 1977.
Optional: Animated Transitions in Statistical Data Graphics by Heer, 2007.
A5.1 Final Project: Proposals assigned
A4.3 Interactive: evaluation assigned
10/29 Animation: motion perception, transitions, pros/cons.
Reinventing Explanation. Michael Nielsen, 2014.
Narrative Visualization: Telling Stories with Data in IEEE Vis by Segal and Heer, 2010.
A Visual Introduction to Machine Learning by R2D3
The Making of R2D3(video) by Chu, T. 2016.
Optional: The Architecture of a Data Visualization, Accurat Studio.
Optional: EPSG:4326 vs. EPSG:3857 (archived) by Diamond, L. 2017.
Optional: Chp. 11 Value-by-Area Mapping, Cartography by Borden Dent.
A5.1 assigned A4 Interactive DUE
11/5 Election Day, no class.   A5.2 assigned A5.1 Proposals DUE
11/12 Maps, Graphic Design, Narrative: projections; typography, rhythm; why storytelling, techniques.
11/19 Final Project In-progress Critique.
Critics: Jia Zhang, Christian Swinehart, Erica Greene, and Eugene Wu
Visualization Analysis and Design Chp 9: Networks and Trees by Munzner, T. 2014.
Pictures of Arguments, Songs, and Ancient Texts (video) by Viegas and Wattenberg, at Eyeo conference 2013.
What Is Visualization Research? by Hullman, J.
Optional: The Case for Data Visualization Management Systems by Wu, et. al.
  A5.2 In-Progress Presentation DUE
11/26 Networks, Text, Viz Research: node-link diagrams, trees, force layout; text viz; guest lecture by Prof. Wu on research.
Six Provocations for Big Data by boyd & Crawford, 2011
Visualizing Algorithms. Mike Bostock. 2014.
Optional: Four Experiments in Handwriting with a Neural Network. Shan Carter et. al., 2016
12/3 Algorithms, Ethics, Vis in Industry: visualizing algorithms; between persuasion and misrepresentation; vis jobs!
12/11 WED Final Project Showcase 6–8pm
@ Brown Institute, Pulitzer Hall

    A5.3 Lightning Talk + A5.4 Project DUE
12/16 MON       A5 Final Documentation DUE

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