Revolution Lullabye

March 13, 2009

Tufte, The Visual Display of Quantitative Information

Tufte, Edward R. The Visual Display of Quantitative Information. 2nd ed. Cheshire, Connecticut: Graphics Press, 2001.

Excellent, elegant graphics give the viewer a large amount of complicated, relational┬ástatistical information in a compact,┬ádata-rich┬áspace. Tufte’s book explains the fundamental principles of good graphic design by showing both good and bad (deceptive and distracting) graphics (in Part I) and by giving a theory and a language to explain the creation and design of good graphics (Part II). High-quality graphics follow his principles of graphical excellence and graphical integrity, and throughout the book, he shows the importance of careful crafting and revision to only include the necessary information in the most ink-efficient graphic, a technique that usually yields graphics that invoke a viewer’s sense of curiosity, intrigue, wonder, and discovery. Part II contains a lot of information about how to create graphics, as he argues that the job of creating good graphics doesn’t belong to an uninterested artist, but rather, the author should consider the construction of graphics to be as integral to a text as the words. He demonstrates this principle in this book, with its intricate integration of graphics and words on almost every page. He argues in Part II for new ways of displaying quantitative information, emphasizing multifunctioning graphical elements that take on more than one duty or function in a graphic, offering revisions of bar charts, histograms, and scatterplots that have redundant and unnecessary non-data ink.

Quotable Quotes

“Graphical elegance is often found in simplicity of design and complexity of data” (178).

“Design is choice. The theory of the visual display of quantitative information consists of principles that generate design options and that guide choices among options. The principles should not be applied rigidly or in a peevish spirit; they are not logically or mathematically certain; and it is better to violate any principle than to place graceless or inelegant marks on paper. Most principles of design should be greeted with some skepticism, for word authority can dominate our vision, and we may come to see only through the lenses of word authority rather than with our own eyes” (191).

“Context is essential for graphical integrity” (74).

Notable Notes

kinds of graphics include data maps, time-series, narrative graphics of space and time, and more abstract relational graphics (that show the relationship between two or more variables, the most elegant and sophisticated kind of graphic that isn’t used as often as it should be in trade magazines and papers)

founders of statistical graphic design are J.H. Lambert and William Playfair; 20th century John Tukey

Charles Minard’s invasion and retreat of Napoleon’s army into Russia (41)

Lie Factor = size of the effect shown in the graphic/size of the effect in the data; don’t use two or three dimensions to show one-dimensional data because it augments (usually wrongly the magnitude of the difference of the numbers)

reasons we don’t have good graphics: lack of statistical skill in illustrators, thought that quantitative information is boring, perception that the audience is stupid – why graphics lie and use simple (not relational graphics) designs

data-ink ration

chartjunk = unintentional optical art (moile effect, hatching that’s become more popular with computers), unneccessary grids (should be as a first step in making a graphic, but not after), and the duck (a graphic for the sake of the graphic)

data density – but must be clear to the viewer

don’t have a lot of info? use tables

continuum from sentences…text tables…tables…semi-graphics…graphics

principles to follow to create elegant graphics – last chapter


February 13, 2009

Halbert, Poaching and Plagiarizing

Halbert, Debora. “Poaching and Plagiarizing: Property, Plagiarism, and Feminist Futures.” In Perspectives on Plagiarism and Intellectual Property in a Postmodern World. Eds. Lise Buranen and Alice M. Roy, eds. Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 1999. 111-120.

Intellectual property laws and copyright should be eliminated in favor a view of intellectual property that emphasizes the creative potential of the commons and an attitude of acknowledging the sources of intellectual ideas and concepts. Such a view highlights the inherently social nature of creative activity, a perspective that challenges the patriarchal solitary author, who composes original thoughts and owns them as property through which to make a profit on. The alternative Halbert proposes is both feminist and postmodernist. Halbert also points out that arguments against plagiarism rooted in economic losses are misguided, explaining that plagiarism carries such weight because it is a personal offense and attack.

Quotable Quotes

“If we can emphasize a framework focused on sharing and exchange instead of personal ownership, then the concept of authorship as identifying ‘to whom something owes its origin’ is acceptable” (118)

“Unlike a tangible item, an idea can be shared by many and ownership of expressions can be difficult to enforce” (119).

“Plagiarism is about personal feelings, not profits” (117).

“For the feminist and the postmodernist, appropriation or plagiarism are acts of sedition against an already established mode of knowing, a way of knowing indebeted to male creation and property rights” (116).

“Intellectual property rights restrict the flow of texts” (116).

“Copyright produces a tension between how texts are created (a process that relies on textual paching, exchange, and sharing) and how texts are legally protexted (a process reliant on originality and private property)” (111)

Notable Notes

Outline of article: 1. explore partriarchal foundations (Locke and Hegel) of intellectual property and copyright law 2. look at current intersections of plagiarism, creativity, and property (case of Jeffrey Koons and “String of Puppies” wood carving) and 3. offer copyright alternative possibilities

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