David McCandless’ TED Talk has me pondering data visualization and its easy intuitiveness.
Think about this: in a decade, will reading have become a difficult skill?
There’s some logic here. Not that long ago, I used to write all the time. In high school and college, I took written notes. I wrote letters, I wrote checks and kept a hand-written ledger, I took written notes in work meetings.
Now, I sign my name, and when called on to write more than a sentence, my hand starts to cramp. For me, the written word has become almost exclusively, the type-written word. Writing actual words on a page has become a difficult skill for me.
Many of you will share this behavior. As our lives have moved to computers, the act of writing has become less frequent.
Referring back to David’s point about data visualization. One reason we all love data pr0n is that it creates an easy way to understand a point, see a pattern, whatever.
As the old saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words.
So, as data visualizations become easier to create and large, meaningful data sets are opened to public consumption, and people take the easy route to control massive information glut, maybe reading will go the same way that writing has.
Let’s be honest, it already has started sliding that way.
Think about your consumption of information in written form. Do you read each and every email, post, tweet, news item, etc. that interests you? Like every single word, applying deep thought? Yeah, I know it’s ironic.
No, you skim. So do I. Everyone does. Why? Not (always) because we don’t care, but because we’re forced to consume so much that priorities need to intervene.
Imagine if your information came in pretty picture form with limited words. That would make it easier to consume.
Need another example? Think about effective presentations. They mix images with few words to make points; this is a shift from bullet point and text heavy slides that require the audience to read and listen at the same time.
Combining images with minimal text and speech seems to be a more effective way to make a point.
Back to my original question, is reading going the way of writing?
Not that we’ll forget how to read, but will it become a difficult skill because our minds are accustomed to information delivered visually?
A larger question: is this good?
Although it sounds like a bad thing to deemphasize writing and reading, you could view these advancements as evolution of communication. We’re moving much faster now, but how much different is this than the invention of the printing press?
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