Thursday, November 17, 2011

Reaction: Tag Clouds and the Case for Vernacular Visualization

This short paper discusses the history, application, and apparent contradictions in the style of word clouds. I found this an interesting and informative read. The history of word cloud is distinctly interesting to me in that the application of such styles of interface had no real purpose; much like the discovery of mathematical equations in which, at the time of discovery, were mere computational constructions, but decades later, provided the foundations for real world problems, such as with Maxwell’s equations for electricity and magnetism, or number theory which has such strong application to computer processes. Something that strikes me as particularly peculiar, most likely because I am an American, is the the Eiffel Tour is not as well known the as Seine.

                Tag clouds, since densely constructed, can provide a wealth of information about word use, including word association. What word clouds tend to fail out, however, is directly comparing words across different word lengths were a simple order list of words is more effective, or for an efficient order search (except in the case of and order tag cloud).  At a glance, these clouds seem to be able to show a distinction between purpose and goals within the visualization community as it violates many rules, yet provides what some would call a vital function.