Visualization rhetoric: Framing effects in narrative visualization

Jessica Hullman*, Nick Diakopoulos

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

158 Scopus citations

Abstract

Narrative visualizations combine conventions of communicative and exploratory information visualization to convey an intended story. We demonstrate visualization rhetoric as an analytical framework for understanding how design techniques that prioritize particular interpretations in visualizations that "tell a story" can significantly affect end-user interpretation. We draw a parallel between narrative visualization interpretation and evidence from framing studies in political messaging, decision-making, and literary studies. Devices for understanding the rhetorical nature of narrative information visualizations are presented, informed by the rigorous application of concepts from critical theory, semiotics, journalism, and political theory. We draw attention to how design tactics represent additions or omissions of information at various levels-the data, visual representation, textual annotations, and interactivity-and how visualizations denote and connote phenomena with reference to unstated viewing conventions and codes. Classes of rhetorical techniques identified via a systematic analysis of recent narrative visualizations are presented, and characterized according to their rhetorical contribution to the visualization. We describe how designers and researchers can benefit from the potentially positive aspects of visualization rhetoric in designing engaging, layered narrative visualizations and how our framework can shed light on how a visualization design prioritizes specific interpretations. We identify areas where future inquiry into visualization rhetoric can improve understanding of visualization interpretation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number6064988
Pages (from-to)2231-2240
Number of pages10
JournalIEEE Transactions on Visualization and Computer Graphics
Volume17
Issue number12
DOIs
StatePublished - Nov 15 2011

Keywords

  • Rhetoric
  • connotation.
  • denotation
  • framing effects
  • narrative visualization
  • semiotics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Software
  • Signal Processing
  • Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition
  • Computer Graphics and Computer-Aided Design

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