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Scaling information

A quick proof of concept on design principles to present information in a scalable level of detail

Jakob Jochmann

on 25 January 2011

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Transcript of Scaling information

Designing information to scale How to manage complexity in modular planes Prezi lends itself to displaying information in layers of growing complexity. Think of it as a microscope: The closer you zoom in on an organism, the more details emerge. But to make use of the microscopic qualities of Prezi you need to design the content in such a way that there is a systematicity to the size of the information modules you display. You need to create a structure that establishes a hierarchy of scale and illustrates the depth of detail at each level. Doing so you can break down complex information into bite sized chunks that are each contextually embedded. The power of
scale "The Milky Way is a galaxy that is part of the 'Local Group' of galaxies. It is one of hundreds of billions of galaxies in the observable universe and home to an estimate of up to 400 billion stars, the most prominent of which we call the sun. The galaxy consists of a bar-shaped core region surrounded by a disk of gas, dust and stars forming four distinct arm structures spiralling outward in a logarithmic spiral shape."
Now, do you think that it makes sense to introduce information about the defining characteristics of planets at this level of scale? "The Solar System consists of the Sun and the astronomical objects bound to it by gravity. Of the many objects that orbit the Sun, most of the mass is contained within eight relatively solitary planets whose orbits are almost circular and lie within a nearly flat disc called the ecliptic plane."
Or is it nine planets? The power of scale can put things in perspective, much like in the famous video: http://www.powersof10.com/ The power of
scale The power of
visualization This hand drawn infographic has gotten much publicity as an exemplary work of data visualization. Edward Tufte praises it for its astounding feat of distilling complex layers of data into a two-dimensional work of art. While there is a certain hierarchy of information created through the variation of smaller and bigger text, all the information that is presented in this visualization belongs to the same plane of complexity. At first glance it can tell you that war sucks. At second glance it tells you, how many people died throughout Napoleon's campaign in Russia. This graphic was not designed to be zoomed around in. There is no modularity to its information flow. It only works as a whole in the two dimensions of a printed page. The reader has to pan across the page to connect the pieces of information. This is why you need to make sure that at every level of zooming there is a meaningful structure. If you combine the virtues of Minard's two-dimensional masterpiece with the layered depth of information that zooming in the third dimension brings you can communicate incredibly dense amounts of data. It is like creating information graphics on steroids. Make the whole of your presentation greater than the sum of its parts. Let patterns arise out of the way you frame and juxtapose your information. Make these patterns visible when switching between planes of detail. Humans are great at discovering patterns - alluding to the gestalt of an entity is enough if you frame it right.

In effect, create a semantic cohesive to your presentation, a link between your information modules that adds meaning in itself. The power of
emergence But merely putting text in frames and then advancing from frame to frame in a linear fashion won't do that. And quite frankly, all this spinning around is starting to make me feel rather dizzy. Why would you do that? What value is added to your presentation? Is there anything to Prezi beyond a prettified slide transition? Enough with the spinning already. There must be meaningful uses for this tool. Slide shows are not it. In fact, there is not much difference to a standard slide based presentation if all you do is jump around. Surely there must be more to this, more than text-heavy screenshots off of this infinite drawing board? So you told me to check out this new fad on the interwebs that's supposed to revolutionize presenting. You might just as well have fired up powerpoint if you only use the infinite canvas as a slide repository. STOP is exploring meaning in communication. He develops frameworks to streamline the transfer of information. Apart from dabbling in semantics and the social facets of media he has a penchant for design and presentations. Jakob Jochmann Mail: jakob@jochmann.me
Twitter: @jochmann
Web: http://blog.jochmann.me + +
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