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Terminology Clarification

Updated: Feb 13, 2021



Visual SenseMaking & Visual SenseMakers:


Welcome all: Some brief terminology explanation as we begin this series:


Reflecting the diversity of perspectives in the industry we would like to point out that many terminologies exist simalteanously for both the term used for professionals engaged in the activity of making the complex clear and the output of such activities. Some terms are overlapping and some are not. Each is slightly different and use often relates to the person's background. No shortage of terms are now in play. We might think of this like numerous neighborhoods existing around a subject.


Terms have evolved over a long period of time. One very early term appearing in the 18th-19th century was "cartography". Early 1917-1920s era terms included “statistical graphics”, “picture statistics”, and “pictorial statistics”. Later terms evolved into “information design”, “information visualizations” and "information architecture". More recently "data visualization" and "infographics" appeared. In the neighborhoods using these terms there is no broad consensus on universal use.


As the terms evolved, so too did the activities involved. Somewhat oddly, some narrowed and some broadened the actual activity. Most of the earlier terms were tied to the words statistics, information or data.


In this Alliance we are using the terms Visual SenseMaking and Visual SenseMakers as we will be exploring and reflecting that the current state of making the complex clear involves more than visualizing data or information. While some in the industry happily remain focused on the data and information visualization aspects of sensemaking, others do not, have not. While the principles of information design still often apply, the playing field of Visual SenseMaking engagement has expanded and is expanding.


To make sense of all of that we have invited and will be inviting knowledgeable folks from numerous disciplines to participate. It is probably sometimes going to be a bumpy ride.


As the future unfolds we hope to, we would like to, resurrect what was previously a small Humantific event series: SenseMaker Dialogs: Exploring the Boundaries of SenseMaking.

Certainly in this platform we will be looking at how various forms of complexity are being made sense of....or not. What we are doing here is meant to be a sharing, learning, and exploring platform for everyone interested in this evolving subject.


It is a subject with a long history that we want to be respectful of as we proceed to reinvent it in ways best suited to the challenges now facing collective us.


Lets enjoy the ride!


GK VanPatter & Elizabeth Pastor



Image: William Playfair, The Universal Commercial History, 1805.

See larger view here.




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