Saturday, November 19, 2011

Reaction: Tag Clouds and the Case for Vernacular Visualization

This article to start with was very short and precise. It expected the reader to be familiar with multiple concepts such as the tag clouds, word visualization and other visualization techniques used. However the authors for this article have presented numerous illustrations to support their discussion in the paper. The first example of the word cloud that came to my mind after reading this article is the one present on our course blog which is built on the similar lines.

The concept of tag clouds has been around for quite some time and has been well explained by the article. The history of the idea for tag clouds and its first instance by social psychologist Stanley Milgram has been well explained and we can find a similar implementation amongst the tag cloud examples seen in The New York Times today. The authors have coined the term “vernacular visualization” for the idea of tag clouds as the idea was born outside the world of computers and the research community. The data is depicted in tag clouds using size or color differentiated text, time-lined based text or in the form of two-worded phrase as in IBM’s ManyEyes. Also the authors have focussed on some of the theoretical problems faced by tag clouds as in the need for the words to be ordered alphabetically, the relation between two similar words causing to be a problem (for example, east and west being related still is placed apart from each other), and words becoming more important because of their size. These factors have been discussed with the help of the experiments. But inspite of all these factors the authors have attributed the success for tag clouds as present a friendly appearance to the viewers. I would also support this argument and state that tag clouds does provide the viewer a quick inference to the information present in a text of data of related words.