Monday, November 28, 2011

Tag Clouds and the Case for Vernacular Visualization

Fernanda B. Viégas and Martin Wattenberg from IBM Research start with the history of "Tag clouds" and also advocate on the "Vernacular" case that they put up. They walk us through 90 years to Soviet Constructivism to Stanley Milgram in 1976 and fortune magazine to flickr. The simple point that they make is this is not the output of the academic or the research of visualization but something that has been picked up from outside.

I feel the fortune magazine representation is in a way a break through which influenced all other subsequently. The second part where they try to understand as to why "tag clouding" has become popular as it almost violates all the golden rules of the visualization.

They attribute some of the tag clouding to them serving as social signifiers and also imply a friendly atmosphere. Th reason for the word “vernacular” is that it does not come from the visualization community, and that violates the basics. Even the researcher confirm that it is difficult to read and understand the words in the tag cloud.

They conclude by saying that there is an increasing demand for tag clouds which shows that there is an important class of data that users want to visualize the unstructured text, although it violates the very basics of visualization !