Data Visualization in Society
Data Visualization in Society
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1 Introduction: The relationships between graphs, charts, maps and meanings, feelings, engagements
Helen Kennedy and Martin Engebretsen

Section I: Framing data visualization

2 Ways of knowing with data visualizations
Jill Walker Rettberg
3 Inventorizing, situating, transforming: Social semiotics and data visualization
Giorgia Aiello
4 The political significance of data visualization: Four key perspectives
Torgeir Uberg Nærland

Section II: Living and working with data visualization

5 Rain on your radar: Engaging with weather data visualizations as part of everyday routines
Eef Masson and Karin van Es
6 Between automation and interpretation: Using data visualization in social media analytics companies
Salla-Maaria Laaksonen and Juho Pääkkönen
7 Accessibility of data visualizations: An overview of European statistics institutes
Mikael Snaprud and Andrea Velazquez
8 Evaluating data visualization: Broadening the measurements of success
Arran L. Ridley and Christopher Birchall
9 Approaching data visualizations as interfaces: An empirical demonstration of how data are imag(in)ed
Daniela van Geenen and Maranke Wieringa
10 Visualizing data: A lived experience
Jill Simpson
11 Data visualization and transparency in the news
Helen Kennedy, Wibke Weber and Martin Engebretsen

Section III: Data visualization, learning and literacy

12 What is visual-numeric literacy, and how does it work?
Elise Seip Tønnessen
13 Data visualization literacy: A feminist starting point
Catherine D'Ignazio and Rahul Bhargava
14 Is literacy what we need in an unequal data society?
Lulu Pinney
15 Multimodal academic argument in data visualization
Arlene Archer and Travis Noakes

Section IV: Data visualization semiotics and aesthetics

16 What we talk about when we talk about beautiful data visualizations
Sara Brinch
17 A multimodal perspective on data visualization
Tuomo Hiippala
18 Exploring narrativity in data visualization in journalism
Wibke Weber
19 The data epic: Visualization practices for narrating life and death at a distance
Jonathan Gray
20 What a line can say: Investigating the semiotic potential of the connecting line in data visualizations
Verena Elisabeth Lechner
21 Humanizing data through 'data comics': An introduction to graphic medicine and graphic social science
Aria Alamalhodaei, Alexandra Alberda & Anna Feigenbaum

Section V: Data visualization and inequalities

22 Visualizing diversity: Data deficiencies and semiotic strategies
John P. Wihbey, Sarah J. Jackson, Pedro M. Cruz, Brooke Foucault Welles
23 What is at stake in data visualization? A feminist critique of the rhetorical power of data visualizations in the media
Rosemary Lucy Hill
24 The power of visualization choices: Different images of patterns in space
Britta Ricker, Menno-Jan Kraak & Yuri Engelhardt
25 Making visible politically masked risks: Inspecting unconventional data visualization of the Southeast Asian haze
Anna Berti Suman
26 How interactive maps mobilize people in geoactivism
Miren Gutiérrez


Reviews and Features

"This book is a good resource for those wanting to study data visualisation in relation to social semiotics and epistemology as the methodologies and frameworks provided by the authors are well thought out and effective lenses for studying data visualisation. [...] This book has achieved its aims of solidifying, as well as inspiring, continuing discourse on the topic of data visualisation and society."
- Miriam McBride, Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies, Journal of the Australian Library and Information Association, 70:1 (2021)

"The chapters in this expertly edited volume make a crucial contribution to critical studies in the area of data visualization. Focused on a broad range of topics including activism, literacy, accessibility, social disparity, gender politics, and professional practices, the papers demonstrate in case after case the rhetorical power of visualizations and the need to engage critically with that power."
- Johanna Drucker, Breslauer Professor and Distinguished Professor of Information Studies, UCLA

"This book offers unique and much needed perspectives on data visualization culture. While most books still approach the subject in a practical "how to" way, Data Visualization in Society offers a range of critical reflections on key social and culture dimensions of visualization culture. This is the book we have been waiting for."
- Lev Manovich, Professor of Computer Science, The Graduate Center, City University of New York & Director, Cultural Analytics Lab

Martin Engebretsen, Helen Kennedy (eds)

Data Visualization in Society

Today we are witnessing an increased use of data visualization in society. Across domains such as work, education and the news, various forms of graphs, charts and maps are used to explain, convince and tell stories. In an era in which more and more data are produced and circulated digitally, and digital tools make visualization production increasingly accessible, it is important to study the conditions under which such visual texts are generated, disseminated and thought to be of societal benefit. This book is a contribution to the multi-disciplined and multi-faceted conversation concerning the forms, uses and roles of data visualization in society. Do data visualizations do 'good' or 'bad'? Do they promote understanding and engagement, or do they do ideological work, privileging certain views of the world over others? The contributions in the book engage with these core questions from a range of disciplinary perspectives.

Martin Engebretsen

Martin Engebretsen is Professor of Language and Communication at University of Agder and director of the INDVIL project (, which provides the inspiration for this book.

Helen Kennedy

Helen Kennedy is Professor of Digital Society at the University of Sheffield. Her research traverses digital landscapes. She is especially interested in the datafication of everyday life.