The Dark Side of Data Visualization


With great power always comes the possibility of misuse- in the world of superheroes, that possibility commonly takes the form of an evil alter-ego. Most great heroes are well aware of this - Batman was plagued by his villainous twin Owlman, Wonderwoman battled her nefarious sister on numerous occasions, and even Spock was reminded of the darkness within him by Mirror Spock. It comes as little surprise that one of our own, Captain Dash’s right hand man Dr. Data Viz, is no exception to the alter-ego rule.

While at its best data visualization can be beautiful, illuminating and provoking, its dark side thrives off of frustration, confusion, and disappointment.

So, you may wonder, how does data visualization become one of the bad guys? Most commonly, visualization attempts go sour when you succumb to the seduction of unrealistically high expectations. You want your visualization to be beautiful, compelling, and groundbreaking. But perhaps your data results are not as impressive as you’d hoped. You may find yourself tempted to overstate your numbers in order to boost your company’s image by making the angle on the ROI graph just a little bit steeper. Or you may have a specific idea of what you want your visualization to look like, but unfortunately your data just isn’t representative of that design.

If you begin your visualization with inflexible ideas about how you want your final product to look, you will surely encounter frustration and roadblocks. Data visualization is a non-fiction genre of art, a representation of truth, and your entire company loses its integrity when you deceive your viewers by purposefully distorting your data.

It is only when we shine a light on darkness and come to understand it that we can truly defeat it. Knowledge is power, and the key to defeating our dark prince of data visualization is by knowing wherein lie his weaknesses. Realistic expectations, flexibility, honesty, and creativity are the only blades sharp enough to penetrate his cold steely armor and ultimately precipitate his demise.

Forever at Your Data-sposal,

Captain Dash and Dr. Data Viz