Paper short abstract:
Most data visualisations assume viewers already understand the significance of the data and are already keen to explore it, but many audiences need a concrete approach – they are not ready to engage with abstract data-vis. Carbon Visuals tells climate data stories to ‘non-engaged’ audiences.
Paper long abstract:
Data visualisers have two main audiences. 'Engaged' audiences come to the data with prior questions of their own and the data visualiser's job is to make it as easy as possible to explore the data and find answers. But often you want to bring data to a new audience - to viewers with no prior interest in the data (for instance, to bring about behaviour change or to campaign politically). The semiotics of the interaction between viewer and visualisation is very different in this latter case. Non-engaged audiences have very different needs, so different strategies are required. However, the data visualisation community makes few concessions to the needs of non-engaged audiences. In general, data visualisations are made as if for scientists or other 'data stakeholders' even when the target audience is non-engaged.
The main thing lacking from 'abstract' visualisations is a sense of reality. Where engaged audiences see carbon emissions or temperatures or energy demand, non-engaged audiences just see a graph. It is not enough to merely 'know' a number refers to a real, physical quantity; you have to 'feel' it too. This paper examines strategies of 'concrete visualisation' developed by Carbon Visuals and others that give both engaged and non-engaged audiences insight into data and allow viewers to make climate change and its causes meaningful on a personal level. For example, simply representing greenhouse gases as an actual volume of carbon dioxide gas can have a dramatic effect on audience engagement provoking questions and precipitating exploration by non-engaged viewers. www.carbonvisuls.com
Visualizing Climate - Changing Futures?