There is growing interest in visualizing and interacting with data for good reason. Improving the speed and intuitiveness of data representation is required as people interact with more and more information.
A UC San Diego study reported on by the Huffington Post article states that “The researchers calculated that we consumed, on average, 10, 845 trillion words in 2008, or about 100,000 words per American, per day.” And it is not just words, there are images, audio, games and more giving the average American consumption of 34 gigabyte per person, per day.
So you will have to note the word is “consume,” but one may want to argue that only some consumption really has value. Meaning just because it was streamed in a person’s direction was meaningful information transfered from the broadcast media to the person. And that answer is that very little of that data really becomes information and knowledge for the person who experiences it.
This is where the study and practice of Data Visualization and Interaction becomes important. How can developers and designers make there information the easiest, quickest and most intuitive to comprehend? Those that are good and great at reducing the interface and letting people work with the data will be the winners.
A number of web sites and applications are investing and exploring how data visualization can help organize their content. Digg Labs has 6 different visualizations to navigate and uncover interesting news and content.
Etsy.com has a number of visualizations they use to help shoppers find what they are looking for… even if the shoppers don’t know it (The mind behind a lot of the Etsy visualizations is Jared Tarbell who is know for some great computer generate art using flash and processing).Another site known for its great traditional graphs is Mint.com (disclosure: I work for Intuit which recently acquired Mint). Mint is excelling at helping people understand there finances and budgeting trends.
While the above examples are diverse there is a common theme of helping the users of the sites better navigate content and data.
The capacity for humans to consume information cannot increase as rapidly as our systems are making it available to us. People will focus on the information that is important and easy to consume. Good data design can add tremendous value to sites and business that get it, making them more usable and engaging to their users.