Peter Hall, “Infoviz: Where’s the Critique?”
Data visualization has lately become an unlikely form of mass entertainment. After the public health professor Hans Rosling presented his giant, animated graphs of floating bubbles, it became the seventh most-watched TED talk, attracting 2.8 million online viewers. But what is the critic to make of this huge, sprawling, multidisciplinary field, which ranges from amateur information graphics to the vast, spectacular arrays rendered by number-crunching supercomputers? And, more to the point, why is critical discourse largely missing from the visualization fields?
Peter Hall is a design critic, and senior lecturer in design at the University of Texas at Austin. He has been a contributing writer for Metropolis magazine since 2000 and has written widely about design in its various forms, including gaming, elevators, building graphics, bridges, neon lights and office chairs, for publications including Print, I.D. Magazine, The New York Times, and The Guardian. He wrote and co-edited the books Tibor Kalman: Perverse Optimist (Princeton Architectural Press, 2000), Sagmeister: Made You Look (Abrams, 2009) and Pause: 59 Minutes of Motion Graphics (Universe, 2000). Since 2006 he has been vice president and co-organizer of DesignInquiry, a non-profit educational organization devoted to researching design issues at an annual gathering in Vinalhaven, ME.