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Foto Friday: Data Whiz

Congratulations to the 2024 Falvey Data Visualization Competition award winners! From left to right: Nicole Daly, Social Sciences Librarian, recognizing Shealyn Murphy, Amanda Wagner, Melissa Wright, and Jonah Miles Gavino. Check out their award-winning projects here.

Kallie Stahl ’17 MA is Communication and Marketing Specialist at Falvey Library.





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The Visual Representation of Data

By Jutta Seibert

Elmer R. Kottcamp, Weather
Vane, c. 1941, watercolor and
graphite on paper, 43.9 x 31 cm.
Courtesy of the National
Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.

Visual representations of data help us understand numbers and their relationships with each other at their best, at their worst they misrepresent and distort what they represent. In our data-driven world visual literacy has become a critical component of information literacy. Thus, it should come as no surprise that this year the Library included a data visualization competition in its Love Data Week lineup.

Humans are remarkable adept at creating and understanding visual representations of data. While experts are divided on whether or not to count paleolithic cave drawings as early examples of data visualization, there is general consensus that maps are visual data communication tools. The information encoded on maps can be highly complex but nevertheless easy to grasp given a basic familiarity with coding conventions for maps. Some of these conventions are so ubiquitous that they are at times considered universal. This may be true today, but visual codes have changed over time. The four cardinal points are an interesting case in point. While we may consider the placement of the North at the top of a map as universal, not all maps follow this convention: Some Medieval European maps show East, where Jerusalem was situated, at the top of the map, Islamic maps often show the South at the top, and last, but not least, modern GIS systems show the travel goal and not one of the cardinal directions at the top.

Modern computing technology has put a wide range of data visualization tools at our fingertips. We are only a few clicks away from transforming data points on a spreadsheet into picture-perfect pie charts, bar graphs, tree maps, and scatter plots. In fact, creating visualizations is generally easier than understanding some of them. There is evidence that many data visualizations produced today are either nonsensical, pedestrian, or outrightly misleading. Numerous websites and publications are dedicated to the misrepresentation and distortion of data through visualizations. Similarly, a range of academic journals are dedicated to the topic of data visualization in various fields ranging from business to science, and the humanities. In a world where enormous amounts of data are continuously collected, both intentionally and unintentionally, data analysis and data communication are considered basic skills in many professions. Today, visual and data literacy are important components of basic information literacy.

Minard, Charles Joseph. “Representation of successive human loss during the Russia campaign of the French Army, 1812-1813.” Courtesy of the Bibliothèque Nationale de France.

Truly great data visualizations are rare. They tell a story and focus our attention. No specialized data analysis training is needed to understand their message. One of the most widely referenced examples is Charles Joseph Minard’s visualization of the human loss suffered by the French Army during the 1812-13 invasion of Russia and subsequent retreat. Minard’s mash-up of a map and flowchart poignantly shows the stark realities of human loss caused by war. Edward Tufte, a widely respected authority on visualizations and author of multiple works on the topic, calls it “the best statistical graphic ever drawn” on his website.

Explore our recommended reading list below if you are interested in the topic and join us on Friday, February 16 at 10 a.m. for Falvey’s first Data Visualization Competition awards ceremony.

Recommended Readings and Websites

Jutta Seibert is Director of Research Services & Scholarly Engagement at Falvey Memorial Library.



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Announcing the ’24 Love Data Week Events

Love Data Week Events

The Villanova Community is invited to join us for our exciting line-up of Love Data Week events during the week of Feb. 12!

Love Data Week 2024 is about highlighting the various representations of “my data,” such as showcasing the work that goes into making data, recognizing data equity and inclusion factors for the people participating in or affected by data, and documenting the data standards from (inter)disciplinary communities. This year we’re focused on helping new and seasoned data users find data training and other resources that can help them work with their kind of data.

Please register for the upcoming Love Data Week Events:

  • Introduction to Data Visualization: Monday, Feb. 12, 12–1 p.m. (Virtual) REGISTER HERE
  • Intro to Python: New Date! Tuesday, Feb. 20, 10–11 a.m. (Virtual) REGISTER HERE
  • Excel for the Humanities:  New Date! Tuesday, Feb. 20, 12–1 p.m. (Virtual) REGISTER HERE
  • Scraping Data from the Web (into R): Wednesday, Feb. 14, 12–1 p.m.(Virtually or Room 205) REGISTER HERE
  • Introduction to Citation Metrics and Research Impact: Wednesday Feb. 14, 4–5 p.m. (Virtual) REGISTER HERE
  • Text Analysis: Gale’s Digital Scholar Lab and Copyright: Thursday, Feb. 15, 12–1 p.m. (Virtual) REGISTER HERE
  • Falvey Data Visualization Competition Awards Ceremony on Friday, Feb. 16, 10–11 a.m. (Speakers’ Corner) Registration is not required for this event.

There will also be interactive tabling on Falvey’s first floor throughout the week.



Falvey’s Data Visualization Competition: Working Session with Michael Posner, PhD

Are you interested in submitting to Falvey’s Data Visualization Competition but feeling unsure about your data visualization skills? Do you have a draft that’s almost ready to go, but need some help with the final touches? Come to our working session and receive one on one guidance to improve your visualization and chances of winning! Michael Posner, Professor of Statistics and Data Science and Director of the Center for Statistics and Data Science Education, will be there to offer advice and give coding support for those using R.

Feel free to bring your laptop or use one of the DSL’s workstations! Please register in advance by using this QR code and feel free to drop in any time during the 3-hour working session! Register here or with the QR above!




Enter Falvey’s Data Visualization Competition—Show Us How You Use Data!

The Falvey Data Visualization Competition is a new program established in conjunction with our annual Love Data week celebration to recognize the various ways that data is used in Villanova scholarship. Winners will be selected from the pool of candidates by the Love Data committee based on set criteria, judging the utilization of data and visualizations to illustrate their research. This competition is open to undergraduate and graduate students from Villanova University. Presentations can be based on any type of data-related project that students have completed or are currently working on. Presentations can be submitted beginning Monday, Jan. 1, 2024. Questions? Contact Nicole Daly, Social Science Librarian.



Last Modified: November 7, 2023

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