Anderson (2008), the editor of Wired Magazine recently declared that ‘science is dead’, arguing that data processing and visualization were now more powerful instruments than mental models. Latour (1983) underscores the role of new instruments in provoking both new insights and authorizations. As data quantity and depth moves outside of the human conceptual grasp the question of where human knowledge and insight sits in relation to machine processing re-emerges from the debates on cognition and AI of the last century. These disputes and concerns suggest the importance of visual interventions that can allow new modes of experience and thought and new structures of power.
This paper explores the aesthetic debates amongst and between art, design and science in the ways that visualization practices and aesthetics are understood. Do visualizations return to a new fundamental realism? Is data pure matter? Is visualization a return to modernism as Manovich (2002, 2007) proposes? Or, is data visualization the twenty-first century sublime, as Javbratt (2005) suggests? What are the means through which matter, data structure and metaphor twine? What are the conclusions and pointers towards future research?
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