In Johanna Drucker’s article titled “Humanities Approaches to Graphical Display”, Drucker offers her view on the shortfalls of data visualization and how they can act against the viewer of the data. She states that visual displays act as a sort of “intellectual Trojan horse” (Humanities Approaches to Graphical Display) where assumptions can hide behind the outward appearance of the data in question. One way that she offers the ability to fix this inherent issue is to re-conceive all data as capta. Data, she describes, is a “given” where capta is “taken” or captured (Humanities Approaches to Graphical Display). My interpretation of her description of the difference between the two is that data must be something that can be observed without effectively looking for it, and, in contrast, capta is information that is, to borrow her description, effectively “taken” from a source and then used to create these tables and graphs.
To use an example to further clarify my interpretation of her distinction between data and capta, I will now turn your attention to a data collection project I did in the past for a company looking to analyze their website visitors and Facebook page likes. For the project I collected unique user data for the company’s website using Google analytics and collected data regarding the age and gender demographics of their Facebook page users. Using Drucker’s classification, the data I collected would effectively fall into the category of capta, because I did not record and observe the data in question without looking for it, rather I actively sought it out using their analytic tracking software. Had I, for example, went to their on-the-ground store and viewed the customer’s demographics, without effectively searching it out, under my interpretation of her description of the difference between the two that would qualify as data.
As a final point regarding Drucker’s article, she mentioned a representation of knowledge and how it effects how we perceive information contained in these graphs, which is important because graphs are almost always created to convey some form of information. How this relates to the chart being knowledge or a representation of knowledge is an interesting question. I think that it is both, as long as the chart is one that easily conveys its meaning. A chart in its most basic for cannot exist without some basic form of knowledge to be displayed in the chart. Thus, the cart must be both knowledge, as it has a base of knowledge to draw from as its source, and a representation of knowledge because it conveys that knowledge.
Drucker, Johanna. “Humanities Approaches to Graphical Display”. Digital Humanities.org. 2011. retrieved from http://digitalhumanities.org/dhq/vol/5/1/000091/000091.html