Confused by data visualisation? Here’s how to cope in a world of many features

 in The Conversation: “The late data visionary Hans Rosling mesmerised the world with his work, contributing to a more informed society. Rosling used global health data to paint a stunning picture of how our world is a better place now than it was in the past, bringing hope through data.

Now more than ever, data are collected from every aspect of our lives. From social media and advertising to artificial intelligence and automated systems, understanding and parsing information have become highly valuable skills. But we often overlook the importance of knowing how to communicate data to peers and to the public in an effective, meaningful way.

The first tools that come to mind in considering how to best communicate data – especially statistics – are graphs and scatter plots. These simple visuals help us understand elementary causes and consequences, trends and so on. They are invaluable and have an important role in disseminating knowledge.

Data visualisation can take many other forms, just as data itself can be interpreted in many different ways. It can be used to highlight important achievements, as Bill and Melinda Gates have shown with their annual letters in which their main results and aspirations are creatively displayed.

Everyone has the potential to better explore data sets and provide more thorough, yet simple, representations of facts. But how can do we do this when faced with daunting levels of complex data?

A world of too many features

We can start by breaking the data down. Any data set consists of two main elements: samples and features. The former correspond to individual elements in a group; the latter are the characteristics they share….

Venturing into network analysis is easier than undertaking dimensionality reduction, since usually a high level of programming skills is not required. Widely available user-friendly software and tutorials allow people new to data visualisation to explore several aspects of network science.

The world of data visualisation is vast and it goes way beyond what has been introduced here, but those who actually reap its benefits, garnering new insights and becoming agents of positive and efficient change, are few. In an age of overwhelming information, knowing how to communicate data can make a difference – and it can help keep data’s relevance in check…(More)”