Visualisation Project – Research Component

We will be making the invisible pattern of the “international north/south divide of the production and consumption of coffee” visible. The main purpose of our visualisation is to understand and present to our audience the correlation between climate and coffee bean growth, while also looking at the international statistics of coffee consumption.

From my research I have found that European countries are the largest consumers of Coffee, while third world countries are the least. In comparison, the developing world relies primarily on the importation of coffee beans from equatorial countries. The coffee bean shrub grows best under the conditions of a tropical rainforest climate, which is found in some countries located on or near the equator. These countries are known as having an equatorial climate.

The world map above indicates the countries that have an equatorial climate (dark blue), correlating with our research. Brazil, Colombia and Indonesia are listed among the top four producers of coffee and all share one thing in common – an equatorial climate.


Above are some stats I sourced and assembled for easy reading of the top 5 consumers and producers of coffee International (International Coffee Organization 2010).

At this point our group has been discussing the idea of illustrating this data (above) through a world map and colour legend. By using a world map we will clearly be able to indicate the countries close to the equator, highlighting the reliance on climate for coffee production. As well as illustrate the patterns of where the leading importers and exporters of Coffee are located.



Coffee 2012, accessed 28 April 2012, <>.

International Coffee Organization 2012, International Coffee Organization, London, accessed 28 April 2012, <>.

World Map highlighting equatorial climate 2011, computer image, Wikipedia, accessed 28 April 2012, <>.


An Illustration of how Visual Media work differently to other Media…

Do visual media work differently to other media forms?

Visual media has the ability to capture an individual’s attention with ease and present information in a coherent manner. While visual displays of data is “in reality, only an image” (Plato, n.d.), they present an alternative and simpler way of remembering information in contrast to other media forms such as text. Audio or printed media work harder than visuals to retain the individual’s attention and are easier to tune out of. Whereas, visual media are bold, interactive and instantly capture the consumer’s attention by allowing a pictorial or audiovisual interpretation (Gates, 2008).

Greek Poet Simonides (c.556-c.468 BC) described “that persons desiring to train this faculty [their memory] must select places and form mental images of things they wish to remember,” conveying how mentally storing images allows the individual to recollect information with ease  through visual recall. For example, when you meet a group of people for the first time – names (words) are hard to remember, whereas facial features (captured images) e.g. blonde hair, blue eyes, thick eyebrows are easier to recollect.

Visual media works differently to text or audio based media as they promote an illustrative comprehension through image. Through visualisation the general public are able to understand scientific, medical and economical (just to name a few) concepts that they wouldn’t if presented in written (equations, bulk text) or audio form. The issue of climate change is regularly mentioned in the media, a topic that is even ignored by some, however, when images or photos of the effects of climate change are presented to the public – The public are hit with an emotional visual of the severity, a poignant effect that words work much harder to evoke.

These evocative images of polar bears struggling against the effects of Global Warming, instantly capture the public’s attention. Within seconds the magnitude of this issue becomes apparent.

Visual media not only evokes a more sensitive reaction from the public, but provides an alternative means of understanding a concept. Diverse ways of creating visuals exist, from drawings and photography to interactive visualisations, providing the consumer an array of visuals to learn and study from.

This visualization by NASA makes the invisible notion of the flow and direction of the Gulf Stream, visible

Even NASA’s Goodard Space Flight Centre (2012) believe that visual media enables an easier comprehension of information for the public at large, stating that “the SVS [operating system/visual storage] works closely with [NASA] scientists in the creation of visualization products, systems, and processes in order to promote a greater understanding of Earth and Space Science research.” NASA’s action to create such visual media and video documentaries displays the importance of the visualization of scientific concepts to the international public.

Unlike mathematical equations, and bulk descriptions of information, visual media allows a clear perspective of such issues and events as those occurring in the science world to the wider public, promoting the public to get involved in such issues as climate change.


Anon, 2008, ‘Struggling polar bears put on endangered list’,, accessed 28 April 2012, <>.

Gates, C 2008, “RISE OF THE VJ. Vague Terrain”, Vague Terrine media, accessed 28 April 2012, <>.

Goodard Space Flight Centre 2012, NASA, accessed 28 April 2012, <>.

Information Aesthitics 2012, accessed 28 April 2012,  <>.

Plato (n.d.), ‘art and illusion’ in ‘a snippet of a dialogue: Theodorus – Theaetetus – Socrates – an Eleatic stranger’ from Sophist, accessed 28 April 2012, <>.

Simondies quoted by: Gill, K 2012, ‘Neuroscience Explains Why It’s Easier To Remember More Than Less’, The Modern Voice, accessed 28 April 2012, <>.

Information Graphics…the essence of visual language

Information graphics are not a new technique of displaying information – designers, engineers and scientists have been using them for years as a method to display data, statistics and information in an easy to understand language – visual language. Graphics displays of content can clarify complex information because images and illustration allow the viewer to physically visualise certain patterns or abstract concepts:

Information Graphic                                                                               Data

The example above portrays how a graphic can instantly help an individual visualise an abstract concept like the amount of calories in certain portions of food.  We can count 8 chocolate kisses as equivalent to 200 calories, the data on the other hand gives you numbers but no visualisation of what 36 grams looks like.

Graphic visualisations are becoming more popular and are being applied to non-traditional design areas (e.g. business meetings).The internet and ever emerging technology has aided this trend because new levels of creating graphics continue to emerge and are becoming easier to use for the everyday person. Displaying graphics instead of verbally explaining a concept gives people a quick start into the topic (Sibbet 2010) – for example a business meeting which focuses on the statistics of their current sales would use a graph to display this information, rather than shout out  “we’re up 300% in comparison to last month where we were down 200%” (who understands that? Who tunes into that? Not many people – so a visualisation of these numbers is used instead, to generate a quick understanding).

Furthermore, images speak universally. Graphics have the ability to communicate information to a wider audience; there is no language barrier when the image of a weather map is used to mark rain, sun or clouds through icons and the same goes for many other graphics (I drew a comic strip, the one below, to explain this point – double click on the comic to see a larger version).

Copyright Marcella Gallace 2012

It’s amazing how lines have such diverse meaning and ways of expressing information. In the comic strip above we see two types of speech bubbles, the line use in the first frame represents a speech bubble representative of dialogue while the speech bubble with circles used in the third frame reflects thought. Different lines: “double-line, solid dashed, and dotted” (Arnell 2006) all have diverse meanings, a dashed line can represent hidden objects, temporal movements and pathways (or even instructions, think of the dashed lines used to instruct origami).While thicker line use and the more solid a line is, “the stronger the emphasis” (Arnell 2006).

Plato (n.d.) said that “a resemblance, then, is not really real…it is in reality only an image”. This quote, along with the Plato reading looks at whether visualisations are indeed the truth, or an image of the truth. The main idea that Plato raises is that graphics are not the actual truth; instead they are a representation of the truth – images are the most accurate way of displaying reality without actually being reality.


Arnell, Timo (2006) ‘the dashed line in use’, accessed 24 April 2012, <>.

Infosthetics, n.d., ‘how does 200 calories look like’, accessed 24 April 2012, <>.

Plato (n.d.), ‘art and illusion’ in ‘a snippet of a dialogue: Theodorus – Theaetetus – Socrates – an Eleatic stranger’ from Sophist, accessed 24 April 2012, <>.

Sibbet, D 2010, ‘Future Talk 12-3, Graphic Visualisation tools’, online video, accessed 24 April 2012, <>.


Internet on brim…if ACTA comes into affect

Pirates of the Caribbean is one of the most well-known film series in the world, and is a multi-billion dollar franchise due to this popularity. As the title suggests, the central characters are pirates and the main objective of a pirate is to (apart from find treasure) steal from other ships, or in other terms to practice piracy. Piracy still occurs today, not only at sea but over the digital realm of the internet. Online piracy is the illegal copying or unauthorized reproduction of copyrighted materials from the internet (Wise Geek 2012).

With the issue of online piracy has arisen the argument of those ‘for’ and ‘against’ the matter. Proponents of online piracy argue that piracy doesn’t financially impact a company (e.g. music labels) to a large extent; instead in some cases it may aid sales of a product (Wise Geek 2012). They believe that the vast amount of those who pirate videos, music and software are people who would not purchase the product in the first place, thus not effecting sales (Wise Geek 2012). In other cases, some argue that people pirate music to do a bit of a ‘taste test’ – to see if they enjoy it, and if they  do will begin to pay for the music, attend concerts, buy merchandise etc and thus feed money into the system that way. On the other end, opponents of online piracy strongly believe that it poses a serious threat to creative and artistic development to the music, movie and software industry. Thus, reducing their profits and the incentives that they need to produce new work.

This has caused governments around the world to prepare legislations that will prevent online piracy. This includes such negotiations as US bills: Protect IP ACT (PIPA) and the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). Both bills are aimed at foreign websites that infringe copyrighted material (Newman 2012), and thus if the bills are enacted it would be made possible to block American internet users from accessing foreign websites accused of infringement (Newman 2012). However, the bills also pose problems for major search engines and websites who share copyrighted information without authorization, causing major website Wikipedia along with other sites to protest against the bills in January 2012 with blackouts lasting 12-24 hours (Paul 2012).

For the time being SOPA and PIPA have been shelfed, a sign of relief for many major sites and internet users. However, the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), which was first presented in Geneva in 2008 with similar aims as SOPA and PIPA, has 31 signatures and awaits those of another six countries in order to come into effect (Ray 2012). It is evident that the major issues that arise from these bills is that the internet no longer presents itself as a free platform to enjoy and share content. If ACTA is implemented, internet servers will be made to monitor each and every individuals online movements – all information going in and out will be surveyed (The Revolution is now 2012). If you are found on more than one occasion to send or receive copyrighted information your internet will be blocked and you will be fined or imprisoned (The Revolution is now 2012). This is as simple as uploading a video of you and your friends at a party and in the background copyrighted music is playing – you are in breach of piracy.

Therefore, if ACTA, SOPA or PIPA are implemented the internet may very well be on the brim of destruction – how will sites like YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook continue to exists?

Wikimedia, the organisation that run the not for Profit Corporation Wikipedia (Paul 2012) stated: “It is the opinion of the English Wikipedia community that both of these bills [SOPA and PIPA], if passed, would be devastating to the free and open web.”

As Wikipedia has stated, the internet will no longer present itself as the open and boundless playground that it has always been – imagine being fined for posting a picture of yourself on Facebook because there’s a Coca Cola poster or other copyrighted material in the backdrop of your photo… it seems that the term ‘piracy’ for ACTA, PIPA and SOPA has alter from ‘robbery’ to capturing copyrighted material in any form (i.e. through photography, sound recording, and/or video recording etc).


Newman, J 2012, ‘SOPA and PIPA: Just the Facts’, PC World, accessed 14 April 2012, <>.

Paul, I 2012, ‘Wikipedia, Other Sites to Protest Anti-Piracy Bills with Blackouts’, PC World, 17 January, accessed 14 April 2012, <>.

Ray, L 2012, ‘International IP Agreement May Change Net Forever’, Tharunka, accessed 14 April 2012, <>.

Solution is now 2012, What is ACTA, online video, accessed 14 April 2012, <>.

Wise Geek 2012, what is online piracy?, Conjecture Corporation, accessed 14 April 2012,<>.