This thoughtful post on visualizing data by Clarence Fisher from Remote Access reminds me of a classic design text by Edward Tufte called The Visual Display of Quantitative Information. Gloriously wonky title for a beautiful, functional book. Amazon.com’s review refers to it as "the Strunk & White of visual design." I was once (quite happily) on the business end of some serious evangelizing when my artist friend Neil showed me his copy of VDQL.   

Clarence comments:

Presenting data in new and different forms may give us an
opportunity to see new ideas and trands emerge. . . . We can all produce clouds of our flickr photos, zoomclouds for our blogs, and use tools like Grokker and Visual Thesaurus
to find our way around. But what is vital is that we help kids to
understand how these tools work, how they represent data, and how they
can be manipulated.

This is what being literate in the 21st century means.

I couldn’t agree more that we need to teach and reteach our kids (and ourselves) critical literacy, and to be aware of the ways in which our perceptions of meaning can be influenced by presentation and design. And I wonder if there may be some aesthetic- or design-driven considerations that will emerge to help shape information literacy. In the case of my friend, Tufte’s book gave him a new critical perspective on his role as a painter and arguably played an important role in his formation as an educator. Maybe Tufte or someone like him is working on the next seminal work, the Strunk & White of information design. Look for it soon at a Lulu near you. It’ll be the one with the killer cover.

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