Data visualisation is a practice that focuses on the content of data being communicated effectively through its representation in visual forms. The current approach to data visualisation is via the deployment of primitive graphics, in which there is a specific emphasis on “privilege of spatial variables” (Manovich 2010, 21). This traditional attitude towards visualisation solicits the schematised formation of data to be communicated by the relationship between objects; most often via position, size, orientation and colour. This procedure of data visualisation may be argued as promoting a “reductive” mode of communication. Arguably, these reductive qualities may dislocate and “unglue” the connections between data type, visualisation and beholder.
By highlighting typical forms of contemporary data visualisation, and the critical responses to these forms (Tufte 1997a, Friendley 2006), this report will attempt to expose the seeming tranquillity with which the traditional practice is accepted and utilised. This will be framed in parallel with an evaluation of the inherent value in developing a sympathetic form of data visualisation, referred to here as a relational aesthetic (Bourriaud 1998). This relational aesthetic is outlined as a form that may supplement, rather than supplant, traditional modes of investigation and expression.
Importantly, the revitalisation and re-visitation to data visualisation is solicited due to the growing commercial and cultural value of datafying practices, which are ubiquitously penetrating an ever-increasing amount of everyday and vital human practices. Such as health tracking (FitBit 2007), human touch (Apple Watch 2014), emotions (WeFeelFine 2006), location (Google Maps 2005) and so on. This report concludes with the possibilities of further research into datafying technologies and the significant benefits of sympathetic relational forms of data communication. This is professed to usher towards greater critical responses within data communication that traverse the typical practice of gadget fetishisation and mere ‘applications’ of multimedia formats.