Interpretation and information control

Over the years, a wealth of data has become available online. With the accessibility of this raw information comes the incentive to understand its relevance or significance. Beyond making it engaging and interesting, there is, more than ever, a need for providing interpretation and perspective. Fundamentally, interpretation is a form of information control.

Traditionally, information control was asserted through formal hierarchies. They consisted of fixed vantage points which could not be altered. Our perception of information was often limited to a single perspective. Now, control is increasingly prevalent in informal, or soft, hierarchies. Soft hierarchies are more flexible and potentially offer multiple ways to contextualize an object. In soft hierarchies, interpretation at its most essential may mean establishing a pivot—a cross-section of an array of objects and their connecting attributes.

Visualization is ultimately a way of controlling information, of establishing boundaries and adding interpretive frameworks. Reflecting of a general shift to soft hierarchies, visualization too can offer multiple pivots—multiple vantage points from which an information set can be seen. It is interesting to me, though perhaps not surprising, that now that information has become more accessible, we are looking for new ways by which to—once again—assert control over it. Yet instead of relying on a few authoritative sources, we are now empowered to interpret information ourselves, from our own perspectives. Following Alexander Galloway’s thesis, control may be decentralized or distributed, but is still as pervasive as ever.

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