A Response to “Once Upon a Stacked Time Series”

Matthias Shapiro’s text, “Once Upon a Stacked Time Series,” discusses the role storytelling plays in visualization. He states that “not every information visualization requires a story. Some are simply beautiful to look at and can exist merely as fine works of art. However, most visualizations have a goal or purpose and present their data in a meaningful way, in the context of some story” (16). Shapiro presents a formula to provide context for a story “Question + Visual Data + Context = Story”(16). He creates a visual image telling the story of the 2009 car trade in program ‘Cash for Clunkers’. Shapiro decided to group data by country. Instead of using circles to show the data regarding each country’s trade in amount he represents the information with an image of the country. Using the image of a country’s shape instead of a circle is a “visual hook” and allows the reader to quickly comprehend the information.

There are different methods for showing information that can allow the reader to process the story in a quick an efficient manner. Recently, I came across the web site “Visual Thesaurus” while trying find words similar to “amazing”. The image tells the story of the word “amazing” by depicting its relationship to words with a similar meaning. The reader can click on words to get a further definition and expand the visual image. The image maps words and allows the reader to investigate the word’s relationship with other words.


  1. The Center. The Visual Thesaurus displays words and meanings that are related to the item in the center of the display.
  2. The Toolbar. Search for words, view word suggestions, see search history, and change preferences settings from the toolbar. Forward/Back buttons provide easy navigation. Help tips are always available.
  3. Words. Click on a word to bring it to the center. Click on the speaker icon to hear the word spoken. Surrounding the word are words and meanings that are related to it.
  4. Meanings. Roll your mouse over a meaning to learn more about it. Click on a meaning to bring it to the center.
  5. Settings. Click on the Settings menu to personalize font size, types of relationships shown, content filtering, special keyboard shortcuts, and more.
  6. Special Features. Printing, spell checking, Internet image and web page search are all available (Visual Thesaurus, Web).

Visual images can tells stories using different formats. Similar to traditional text, the visual story answers a question by providing information and context. The difference lays in the methods used to present the images and words, and how the presentation and context of the information allow the reader to interact with the information provided.

Tufte, Links and Casual Arrows

“Links and Casual Arrows”

In the chapter “Links and Casual Arrows” Edward Tufte discusses the relationship between arrows and links used to illustrate relationships between words and images in diagrams. Arrows can be ambiguous in diagrams. Tufte states, “Nouns name a specific something; arrows and links are too often non-specific, generic, identical, undifferentiated and ambiguous” (70). To illustrate this point Tufte discusses Alfred H. Barr, Jr.’s diagram, “Cubism and Abstract Art”.


By using arrows with only one arrowhead to connect nouns the diagram lacks a back and forth relationship between artists discussed, therefore limiting the scope of the diagram to a single dimension of association. By choosing to include paired or double-headed arrows the diagram could have depicted the correlation between works of one artist to another. Barr’s diagram is modern and definitive, it provides information in a precise and complete manner, leaving little to nothing for the reader to add to the piece.  Tufte compares Barr’s diagram to Ad Rheinhardt’s “How to look at modern art in America”. Rheinhardt’s diagram delivers connects nouns using a satirical cartoon style, he includes empty leaves for the reader to add artist he may have omitted.


Rheinhardt’s diagram style reminded me of Scott McCloud’s “The Vocabulary of Comics”. By using cartoon the writer/artist can focus on details they wish to include in their discussion. McCloud states that “by stripping down an image to its essential “meaning,” and artist can amplify that meaning in a way that realistic art can’t”(201). While both Rheinhardt and Barr’s diagrams show ambiguous relationships, Rheinhardt’s diagram allows the audience to interact with the piece through “amplified” meaning showing various relationships between artists, subject matter, art awards, genres, etc.

Works Cited

McCloud, Scott. “From The Vocabulary of Comics”. Web. 2.18.2013.

Tufte, Edward. “Beautiful Evidence”. Cheshire: Graphic Press LLC. 2006. Text

Mapped Pictures

In the text Beautiful Evidence, Edward Tufte details how pictures can be used to map objects. The text includes Otto Lilienthal’s five drawings of a bird in flight. The drawings depict the wing span of a stork, the space-time relationship of a wing in movement, and qualitative value scales for the first two drawings. The last two drawings detail wings in motion. Lilienthal used his drawings to provide maps for his own inventions for flight (Tufte, 35).


leonardo da vinci's tank invention

Similar to Lilental, Leonardo DaVinci used drawings to diagram his inventions. In modern times, scale models have been recreated following his plans. In 1487 Davinci designed a tank, like many of his inventions his design was centuries ahead of the time. A tank would not be used in war for 400 years. The photo of his sketches details the gear system to propel the tank forward and the armor for the outside. The drawings has a flaw, the gear system would not work correctly. It is not known if this was a simple oversight or an intentional design flaw as a way to control the reproduction of his drawing (Leonard, Web).

Pictures provide a maps that allow for a deeper understanding of an image. Labels provide context to the subject matter. For example naming each person in a photo depicting several people allows the viewer to recognize each person as an individual component of the group. The viewer can contextualize an image when the image is presented with scale. Photographs, drawings, and paintings all provide a map that allows the viewer to have a deeper understanding of the subject matter.

Works Cited

“Leonardo da Vinci’s Tank”, Leonardo Da Vinvci’s Inventions, n.a., n.d., Web. 2.11.2013

Tufte, Edward. Beautiful Evidence. Cheschire: Graphic Press LLC, 2006. Text




Visual Argumment


  • What does it mean to be transgender?

Dakota Raynes story

  • Legal Cases Rights of Transgender Individuals

Politician Michelle Bruce

Parental Custody Dakota Raynes and others

  • Transgender demographic information

National Center for Transgender Equality

  • Should transgender be considered it’s own gender identity?

Nature’s Role in the Art of Memorial

In her essay “The Wall, the Screen, and the Image; The Vietnam Veterans Memorial” Marita Sturken discusses the public response to the Vietnam Memorial. She defines a memorial by quoting Charles Griswold, “a species of pedagogy” that “seeks to instruct posterity about the past and, in so doing, necessarily reaches a decision about what is worth recovering.” While public opinion on the design of a memorial may vary, it is widely accepted that a memorial is a symbolic representation of a war.

Sturken states that the Vietnam Memorial “has tapped into a reservoir of need to express in public the pain of this war, a desire to transfer the private memories of this war into a collective experience” (411). This expression is often formed using nature. The Vietnam Memorial was formed by manipulating the earth creating a feeling that if “approached from above, it appears to cut into the earth; from below it seems to rise from it”(404). The memorial is made of a reflective smooth black stone that reflects images in a way similar to a reflective pool; it allows the viewer to see him or herself in the memorial. Visitors are inspired to interact with the names inscribed on the black surface through touch.

The 9/11 Memorial also relies on nature to connect the viewer to the experience of the World Trade Center attacks and form a collective memorial experience. The memorial has planned to include more than 400 trees to “bring green rebirth in the spring, provide cooling shade in the summer and show seasonal color in fall” (9/11 Memorial). The foot prints of the Twin Towers have been turned into sunken pools lined with waterfalls, and the pools are surrounded the names of all of the victims of the terrorist attacks in 1993 and 2001 are inscribed in bronze. Similar to the Vietnam Memorial, the 9/11 Memorial is sunken in the earth; it sits 70 feet below street level. Using the earth in the creation of a memorial allows the viewers to form a connection to the experience being memorialized in a personal and unbiased manner and therefore accomplishes the mission of allowing personal memories to transfer to a collective experience.

Works Cited

9/11 Memorial. Online. 1.28.2013.

Sturken, Marita. “The Wall, the Screen, and the Image: The Vietnam Veterans Memorial”. Visual Rhetoric In a Digital World. Carolyn Handa. Boston, New York: Bedford/ St. Martins. 401-416. Online text.

Visual Arguments

In the introduction of “Toward a Theory of Visual Argument” David Birdsell and Leo Groarke argue that visual components can be used to effectively pose arguments and persuasion. They acknowledge and counter the common claim “that visual images are in some intrinsic way arbitrary, vague, and ambiguous.”(2). The meaning of a visual is never clearly defined; it changes with time and context. They provide evidence that words are also be ambiguous, therefore words and visuals are equal in presenting arguments and persuasions.

Standing alone, a single word does not hold meaning; the word relies on contextual clues for definition, visual components rely on the same principal. Visual arguments rely on the following types of context: immediate visual context, immediate verbal context, and visual culture. When more than one image is present a context is provided for an image—the immediate visual context. The words used in conjunction with a visual define the immediate verbal context of a piece. A photograph can hold meaning by itself, however, that meaning can be defined further when used in with words in a caption. The context with visual culture changes over time, the meaning of a piece can be perceived differently due to changing culture.

Ferdinand de Saussure theorizes about the importance of context. He states that an object’s “content is really fixed only by the concurrence of everything that exists outside it.”(843) Saussure uses money as an example. He argues, “a coin nominally worth five francs may contain less than half its worth in silver. Its value will vary according to the amount stamped upon it and according to its use inside or outside a political boundary.”(847) Visual and textual arguments rely equally on contextual clues for definition, and are equal forms of argument.

Works Cited

Birdsell, David S., and Groarke, Leo. Toward a theory of visual argument. Online text WRTG 4030. 1.10.2013.

Saussure, Ferdinand de. “Nature of the Linguistic Sign”. The Critical Tradition. Richter, David H. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2007. Pages 842-847. Print


NRArmstrong © Christopher Weyant,The Hill,National Rifle Association,NRA,Lance Armstrong,gun control,Obama,Congress,evil,assault weapons,Newtown,CT,massacre,doping,scandal,armstrong admission, gun debate 2012, lance armstrong doping, lance armstrong out, nra, NRA 2012, second amendment

Chris Weyant’s comic, “NRArmstrong”, claims that the NRA lies, distorts facts, intimidates officials, and shows disregard for the health and safety of others. It supports this claim by showing two NRA executives watching Lance Armstrong on TV and commenting that they have “found their new spokesman.” The comic refers to Armstrong’s recent public admission to illegal doping and the writer’s perception of the NRA’s ethics.