You could answer that question in words. But it might be far more interesting to see your answer in a picture. Even more interesting to see a picture that aggregated thousands of people’s answers. And even more interesting than that to see if where you want to be touched is the same place that someone wants to touch you. (Note, women want to touch and be touched on the back of the neck; men don’t really focus on that particular body part.) All of which you can experience on fleshmap.com, a site that represents just some of the work being done by data visualization master Martin Wattenberg.
I had the privilege of sitting through one of Martin’s captivating presentations on data visualization at last week’s Future Forward gathering of marketers, CEOs and venture capitalists. Martin demonstrated how the visual portrayal of everything — from congressional testimonies to music lyrics — enhances understanding, simplifies communication, and reveals insights that ordinary words just can’t capture.
For example, he loaded the lyrics of 10,000 songs, identified the 83 body parts mentioned – head, eyes, lips, hands, knees, etc. – and then created graphs and charts to show the prominence of each body part in a particular genre of music. But here’s the catch: bar charts and graphs were boring. However, place an image of each body part in one of 83 circles, then let the popularity of that body part in a genre’s lyrics determine the relative size of the circular images, and you have one amazing visualization. I don’t have to tell you what body part grew to dominate the screen for hip hop, but you might be surprised to know that knees were huge when it came to the blues.
So what’s the point of all this in a blog about marketing and social media? Simple. Data visualization shouldn’t simply be a means of communicating facts, trends, or research results, which is how it’s primarily used today, augmenting magazine articles or business reports. It’s greater potential is as an interactive social media tool. Everyone’s a data junkie these days. We want to measure ourselves, whether it’s our calorie intake, our running performance or more recently our sleep patterns.
With the real time web, data visualization can entice us to participate, enter data, compare ourselves to others, and share those results across our social networks. That’s presuming we get the rush of seeing instant results in a format that is fun and interesting. Thanks to creators like Martin we can. Check him out if you haven’t. You can create a picture of your name, your blog posts, and virtually anything else you can imagine.
And if you’re like me, constantly looking for new ways to engage your community, create genuine utility, and allow for participation, you might discover numerous untapped opportunities in this art form. I’ve got ideas already. What about you?
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