What would feminist data visualization look like?, by Catherine D’Ignazio
The God Trick! Is this not the rhetorical premise and the seductive promise of most data visualization? To see from the perspective of no person, no body? Our appetite for such perspectives is fierce, “gluttonous”, as [Donna] Haraway characterizes it.
And yet, there are ways to do more responsible representation. There are ways to “situate” data visualization and locate it in concrete bodies and geographies. Critical cartographers, counter-mapping artists, indigenous mappers and others have experimented for years with these methods and we can learn from them.
Here are some beginning design thoughts about what #feminist_data_visualization could do:
1. Invent new ways to represent uncertainty, outsides, missing data, and flawed methods
While visualizations - particularly popular, public ones - are great at presenting wholly contained worlds, they are not so good at visually representing their limitations.
2. Invent new ways to reference the material economy behind the data.
(...) What are the conditions that make a data visualization possible? Who are the funders? Who collected the data? Whose labor happened behind the scenes and under what conditions? (...)
Data visualizations often cite data sources as fact on a legend but we could do more. What if we visually problematized the provenance of the data? The interests behind the data? The stakeholders in the data?
3. Make dissent possible
(...) as we know from Wikipedia editing wars and GoogleMap Controversies the world is not actually bracketed so conveniently and “facts” are not always what they appear to be.
Catherine D’Ignazio is an Assistant Professor of Data Visualization and Civic Media at Emerson College who investigates how data visualization, technology and new forms of storytelling can be used for civic engagement.