Week Two Response: Data Visualization

One of the themes Professor Cartwright talked about is data visualization. She used “Cancer’s Epigenetic Signature” as an example to show that scientists visualize their data sets into images in order to analyze the information they have gathered.

Data visualization represents the connection between art and science. By making a data set into an image, scientists are able to analyze the data more easily and show the audience more clearly through color coding, assigning symbols, and etc. In both the past and present, art has been not only a part of the science world but also a kind of tool to help scientists to organize massive information they receive. More and more people have started using data visualization as a tool for different kinds of data sets.

data visualizationAn example of data visualization is from “Microbial Inheritance in Seeds”; a PhD student from University of Oregon, Lucas Nebert used the data of “bacterial species living in corn seed” from Johnston-Monje and Manish Raizada to create a network image by using Cytoscape software, a data visualization tool. The image includes different colors and thickness of lines and nodes in various sizes. The nodes, the lines, and the connections between them all have different representations. Nebert states that “The size of the node is related to the amount of samples it was found in; species are connected when they occur together in the same sample; the thickness of the connections is weighted by the number of times the species co-occur.” Also, the color (red/blue) of the lines symbolizes their probability of being found in the same samples. If the color is blue, “they co-occur more often than expected by chance,” and being red is occurring less. Through the networking image, he suggests that scientists are able to learn “which microbes might be collaborators, and which might be competitors.” Thus, the example from Nebert shows that data visualization is a tool to analyze information in the science world but through the form of art.

Data visualization shows that art and science can be worked together. Many people, including myself, think of creativity and imagination when we think of art. On the other hand, science is complicated with a lot of facts and information. These two subjects do not seem to have any connection. However, artists and scientists shows that they can be innovative by using art in the science world. Making data into images shows us that art can be used to help people have a better understanding in science and that science can be creative and imaginative as art. Throughout the history, artists and scientists have come to work together to use art as a tool to make science become more reachable and more importantly to help people to live in a more convenient world.

Resource: http://www.microbialinheritance.org/media/dataviz/

-Annie Ho

I will be presenting on week three material in week four!


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