Over the past few months, this web I have come across a series of visualization options for new media research and not only. My favorite right now is ManyEyes, buy more about a platform powered by IBM, that offers plenty of visualization options for both qualitative and quantitative data.
What you do: upload your data set and start exploring
Features: Visualize relationships among data points, compare sets of values, track rises and falls over time or analyze text. Discussion forum for data visualizations, easy sharing and visualization ratings.
Advantages: You might find some of these features in other programs but the advantage of ManyEyes lies within the dynamic representation of the data and within the option of giving multiple visualizations to the same data set. Also, you can easily share or embed your visualizations. No programming skills are required.
Disadvantages: the need to create a login with IBM and having your data sets and graphs made public as soon as they’re uploaded. Also, there are no data set editing options yet so if the data you uploaded has even the slightest error, you’ll have to go upload a new set. The text analysis data is rather basic so for in-depth analysis I’d still recommend a qualitative data analysis software such as nVivo or CatPac. Finally, the resolution of some of the graphs is quite low and display size quite small. This can make the exploration of big data set visualizations difficult.
For those that are better at programming, who know Java or Adobe Flash or are willing to try something new, I found two platforms that offer similar features with ManyEyes but allow a higher degree of customization. They are Prefuse and Tulip. Both are softwares and need to be downloaded on your computer.
Also, if you are interested only in tag clouds, then Wordle.net allows you to instantly create them without requiring a login. Such images are particularly useful when wanting to show, for example, what are the most frequent words used in a text.
Amaztype works in a similar manner but the typographic visuals it creates are based on Amazon searches. You can choose your Amazon store, the media type you want to search for (book/music/video or DVD) and the topic. When the visual is done, you can then zoom in and explore the results. This how the web 2.0 search in Amazon.co.uk looks like.
For Google News visualizations and its constantly changing there is now NewsMap. It is based on a treemap visualization (also offered by ManyEyes if you’re interested in this for your data) that can be queried based on a series of variables: country, category and date. According to Marcos Weskamp “Newsmap does not pretend to replace the googlenews aggregator. Its objective is to simply demonstrate visually the relationships between data and the unseen patterns in news media. It is not thought to display an unbiased view of the news; on the contrary, it is thought to ironically accentuate the bias of it.”
And finally, a project that I know of for some time: We Feel Fine. This allows you to investigate how people were feeling at a specific moment in time allowing you to choose from a huge library of adjectives and to narrow the results depending on gender, data, country and weather. When controversial events are researched, this might offer some interesting insight into people’s moods and attitudes.