The talk was about how to represent data in a way that makes discovering new information and making interesting observations about it easier for people. I felt like it was particularly relevant to me because I’m more of a visual learner. When I see a huge wall of text or code or a series of mathematical symbols, my mind tends to go blank and I can’t quickly draw any interesting conclusions on the information when it’s in that form. Spreadsheets are really the worst way to show data. But when it’s represented visually with colors and size and proximity, it’s much easier to recognize patterns and anomalies that might be interesting.

In retrospect, using some method of representing data visually would have made my summer research experience much easier. The research I did involved downloading Google Trends spreadsheets for over 800 congressional candidates, and while I did it using code, there was basically no way of catching mistakes or anomalies outside of looking through the spreadsheet individually. I obviously did not have time to do that, so when I wrote scripts to process those spreadsheets, the only way I knew if the data was downloaded incorrectly was whenever the code broke in a specific way.

Hopefully, our solar system TUI will be able to represent information in a tangible and visual way instead of just forcing the user to read a lot of text or confronting the user with a lot of facts in list form.