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Representation in Scientific Practice Revisited$
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Catelijne Coopman, Janet Vertesi, Michaeland Lynch, and Steve Woolgar

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780262525381

Published to MIT Press Scholarship Online: May 2014

DOI: 10.7551/mitpress/9780262525381.001.0001

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Visual Analytics as Artful Revelation

Visual Analytics as Artful Revelation

(p.37) 3 Visual Analytics as Artful Revelation
Representation in Scientific Practice Revisited

Catelijne Coopmans

The MIT Press

This chapter explores how relations between seeing and knowing are articulated in efforts to promote “visual analytics”: the practice of extracting insights from large datasets with the help of on-screen, interactive displays of trends, outliers and other patterns. The focus is on online seminars organized by a software vendor, in which experienced business users demonstrate their practices to a less experienced audience. The chapter discusses how the idea that visual analytics can “reveal” insights is both manifested and qualified on these occasions. The user practices on display convey to audiences the impression that specific insights inhere in data and can be visually apprehended. Paradoxically, the demonstrations simultaneously render such insights conditional and elusive. The chapter characterizes this paradox as “artful revelation,” and proposes that it is rhetorically powerful in helping to foster imaginaries of, and investments in, data-driven discovery.

Keywords:   Data visualization, Rhetoric, Software demonstrations, Data-driven discovery, Data science

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