Barton and Barton on Maps

The Bartons provide a lengthy detailed analysis of taking a new look at maps and ways and reasons they are produced and interpreted. Early on in the reading Barton provides an interesting quote from Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. I found this reference especially helpful in understanding the quintessential ideology of maps that Barton and Barton are conveying in this reading. Huck is convinced that because he say Illinois as green and Indiana as pink on the map, then they must be those colors in real life as well. Barton and Barton go on to explain how Huck was reading the map as purely factual rather than as a semiological system. On a similar note, the reading continues to a section called “Denaturalizing the Natural.” This is when the creators of the map change the actual reality of the map, sometimes only slightly, to more ideally fit how Humans need to perceive it. This can also be seen also in the Mercator projection of the global map. It is not always easy to clearly and fully display the surface of a sphere on a flat two denominational plane. This and many other interesting similar ideas are looked at with this video “What Does the Earth Look Like?” from Vsauce.

In what other ways do we denaturalize the natural form of our world with the maps we create?


Dombrowski: Not a Celebrex Fan

This is a good, quick, understandable reading with one clear goal in mind. Paul Dombrowski is tearing a Celebrex ad to shreds and rightfully so. Dombrowski discusses how he cannot actually show the ad due to copyright reasons but describes it in detail. He discusses how this ad technically does convey all of the necessary information, but it does so in a way that most viewers will not actually understand any of the information. This infuriates Dombrowski, as it should. Dombrowski then goes into a background section and an analysis section. In the background section, he discusses how through clinical trials, a side effect of Celebrex was increased risk of heart attack. However, Celebrex did not take the ethical road and inform the viewers of their ad clearly of this risk. They want people to buy their drug and do not care whether they know about the dangerous side effect. Dombrowski discusses several interesting points in the analysis. One important point was bringing up Eric Eisenberg’s seminar elaborating on strategic ambiguity. This reading is an interesting look into ethics in rhetoric, or lack thereof.

This is an interesting and quick TedTalk discussing how to spot a Liar. When I read in Dombrowski about strategic ambiguity, it reminded me of several of the lying tactics in this awesome video. Celebrex, by presenting the information in the way that it does, is really lying to the consumer about the risks involved with this drug.

Can we think of any other companies who have evaded the truth in a way similar to this?

Manning and Amare on Visual Rhetoric Ethics

Alan Manning And Nicole Amare have produced for us an interesting and slightly lengthy reading today regarding the ethical side of visual rhetoric. I will just be focusing on a few key areas of this reading. Near the beginning of the reading our authors go into six key ethics that apply not only to visual rhetoric, but also to written and orally delivered rhetoric. I will highlight a few of the big ones and expand upon them. The first to look at is the “Veil of Ignorance” approach. This idea discusses how because infographics are usually based mostly on simply conveying facts and statistics rather than taking a side, they should largely ignore (be ignorant of) any sort of prejudice or discrimination associated with the topic. The next one to look at is similar in nature, “The Golden Mean” approach discusses how visual rhetoric should not be biased toward any extreme, politically or otherwise. Politically is a good means, however, of looking at this approach. I will discuss this kind of idea further in the connection section.

This infographic displays various social and economic views of the left (Liberal) and the right (conservative) viewpoints. Although it mixes up the colors usually associated with each side, it presents the information in an unbiased way. It follows the “Golden Mean” rule discussed in the reading.


What is an example of when the golden mean rule is not followed? Fox News? CNN?

Unempathetic and Inhumane Charts and Graphs

Today’s readings focus primarily on how even though charts, graphs, and other technical visual displays of information can be very good at displaying and conveying information, they can fall short regarding producing true feelings in the viewer. I am going to keep this summary section relatively brief as I feel that I have a strong connection section to really connect with the reading and drive home my point. The first of our readings today was “Cruel Pies: The Inhumanity of Technical  illustrations” by Sam Dragga and Dan Voss. It focused on creating humanistic ethics within visuals and offered several different potential solutions to try and create those feelings. The second reading was “DataViz—The UnEmpathetic Art.” This one was an interesting read. It showed several examples of when data visualizations created or at least are on he right track to creating a sense of empathy in the reader. The gun death one, although I personally disagree with the premise, is interactive and presented well.

A possible, and probable, solution to visual displays of data not creating empathetic feelings in the viewer is providing music that evokes the emotion, while displaying the data. This would not work in every single situation as audio can not always be provided with a visual infographic, but when it can, like in videos, It can be a powerful tool. I have presented this animated Infographic from the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum, that uses music to help evoke certain feelings in the audience. I think the person who put this up on YouTube changed the music for copyright reasons, because the original music in the actual exhibit is a somber rendition of “When Johnny Comes Marching Home” and “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.” Me personally, I had many sympathetic and empathetic feelings, when watching this in the museum for the first time, and I believe the music is mostly to be credited in that respect. I have attached the link below that takes you to a YouTube version of the actual exhibit. It is not quite as good as the real thing, but it will at least help me get my point across.

Other than possible ways mentioned in the readings and the way I have mentioned, Are there any other ways to convey the true desired sense of emotion that an informational visual display can lack?

Kostelnick’s Clarity Conundrum

Kostelnick opens his article and brings up a Tufte quote that is basically saying graphical data visualizations should be first and foremost efficient, minimalist, and to the point, and they should also be accurate. In the rest of the reading, Kostelnick is basically responding to tufte’s ideas in his own way. Kostelnick does this very well, as he brings in a valid point of the importance of clarity in graphical data visualizations, and does so much from a reader’s point of view. Kostelnick’s reading is divided into four main sections. The first section is called The Rhetoric of Science. This section associates clarity with efficiency and uses examples like bar graphs and dot charts. Kostelnick also spends some time comparing his ideas with Tufte’s and referencing some of Tufte’s work. The next section is called Rhetorical Adaptation. This section focuses on how the graphical data representations should be easily modified for various audiences and contexts. People see and understand things differently and rhetorical designs must be prepared for that. The third section is called Social Rhetoric. I believe this section is summed up well when Kostelnick alludes to a psychological principle when describing how different people may interpret a graphical data visualization. “Simply put, from the perspective of social rhetoric, nature may play a role in interpretation, but nurture really matters.” The final section before the conclusion is called The Rhetoric of Participation. This section discusses how the availability of new technology and the internet expose readers to so many new and effective forms of graphical data visualizations. This section also includes several interesting examples.


This graph contains a Y-axis on both sides and overlapping bars. Does this graph sacrifice clarity for efficiency? How could it be improved?

Visual Explanations (feat. Tufte)

Tufte brings some interesting real world examples into the importance of accurate and clearly displayed visualizations and graphics. He discusses and analyzes two different situations in which the clarity and accuracy of these graphics was literally the difference between life and death. The first instance of this type of situation occurred during a cholera outbreak in London in 1854. John Snow was out to find the source of the outbreak in hopes of stopping the death and destruction of the people of London. He uses data obtained from the general register office and plots it out accordingly using different maps and bar graphs. Through his successful implementation of these graphics, he is able to identify that the cholera was coming from an infected water pump and those who drank from that pump were getting sick and often dying. Because of the graphics Snow was able to create he was able to discover the source of the illness and the epidemic was ended after officials replaced the water pump. The second instance of life and death infographics is not quite as successful. The launch of the Challenger rocket in 1986 resulted in a catastrophic crash killing all seven crew members aboard the shuttle. This was due to a part of the rocket called an O-ring that could not function properly due to the freezing temperatures of a cold January day. Engineers saw this problem and tried to communicate it as an issue to NASA, but the charts and data they presented were not successful in their intentions and the shuttle launched anyway. This confirmed the doubts of the engineers and seven lives were lost in a fiery explosion.

Tufte brings forth these two interesting and important points in ensuring accuracy and clarity in graphics created, because it can mean the difference between life and death.


One example I have come up with for an important infographic that can mean life or death is a fire escape plan.

What other instances might the accuracy and clarity of an infographic mean the difference between life and death?