Archive for the ‘Tools’ Category
All is connected, all is real, and all is metaphor.
Do you think this statement is true?
Recently I ran across a website of metaphor examples. According to its author, the site is based on the idea that metaphorical relationships can be considered to be “universal” in scope: a sort of Rosetta Stone between disciplines, if you will.
A related view is that metaphors provide a set of tools to compare two (seemingly) unlike things that are alike in at least one important way. Pick the tool of your choice – simile, analogy, personification, and others – and use it to explore and better understand the unknowns.
Then there’s this definition: “A metaphor is a literary figure of speech that uses an image, story or tangible thing to represent a less tangible thing or some intangible quality or idea … Metaphor may also be used for any rhetorical figures of speech that achieve their effects via association, comparison or resemblance.”
If you follow some of the links in this post, you will see that metaphors of all kinds appear to be an indispensable key to understanding as well as creating our reality. They also allow us to connect to other forms of reality and to live beyond the boundaries of our own space.
Could we write, or communicate in any way, without metaphors?
Can you think of any aspect of your life that is metaphor-free?
If you were deprived of all metaphors, could you exist?
Do you think humans are responsible for creating metaphors, or do we just notice all the connections around us and attempt to describe their interfaces and correspondences?
In a recent post titled Language: The Government Wants Your Metaphors, I discussed IARPA’s Metaphor Program, which seeks to “exploit the fact that metaphors are pervasive in everyday talk and reveal the underlying beliefs and worldviews of members of a culture” in order to “characterize differing cultural perspectives associated with case studies of the types of interest to the Intelligence Community.”
Although analytically and intellectually admirable, at least as a mathematical construct, such a project may ultimately prove too daunting to be practicable, because what metaphors say is so complex, interlocking and interrelated that it seems quite a challenge to untangle all the possible meanings and connections. And never mind that all of those qualities are dynamic.
If, as some suggest, metaphors are the foundation of our conceptual systems, then apparently we require them in order to think and act.
And if we can only understand or experience one thing in terms of another, that is, by using metaphors, then what don’t metaphors say?
Now it’s your turn: Do you think metaphors are the engine of communication? Could language itself be construed as a form of metaphor for life? Without communication of all kinds would life exist? Thanks for leaving your comments! Elizabeth Lexleigh LexPower The Write Ideas
- Topology data
- Epidemiology data
- Sets of time series
- Medical data
- Geographic maps
- Network connections
- Financial data
- U.S. Government Budget
- Billions of customer transactions
- Radiation doses and their impact over time
Improving large-scale analysis of these and many other massive data sets presents an ongoing challenge for businesses, academia and government. Using information visualization techniques, however, allows us to explore visually and perhaps arrive at some understanding of patterns and groupings that might otherwise remain invisible.
Essentially, information visualization allows you to extract meaningful information from a sea of data.
And those data do not have to correspond only to the physical and concrete. They can be abstract, drawn from the domains of the symbolic, the textual, the logical, the tabular, the networked, and the hierarchical, among others.
Example: Accessing the Geosocial Universe via Mobile Devices
How popular are the various geosocial networks with mobile users? This infographic is a good example of “compare and contrast.”
Example: Ranking Themes in Documents
If you’re curious about the relationships among documents, this visualization shows clusters of themes and their strengths in health- and medical-related literature.
Example: Ordering News Topics by “Interestingness”
Ever want to find out what are the hottest news topics within a given time period? In this visualization, the most reported (hottest) topics are in the center column. Less-reported topics appear in the side columns.
Using Information Visualization to Improve Your Publications
For your visualization to be effective, it must be useful to your audience as well as aesthetically appealing. This requires thoughtful analysis, attention to detail, imagination, and no small amount of perseverance. This YouTube video provides some examples and techniques. You may also find inspiration in Edward Tufte’s website.
The idea is that you do the heavy lifting, so your audience doesn’t have to.
To guide your work, ask the following questions:
Does your visualization have a purpose? That is, what is the story you are trying to tell with this visualization? What information are you trying to tease out of the data and put into visual form?
Is your visualization the best one to convey the story? That is, when your audience sees the visualization, will they immediately grasp the “big picture” of your analysis of the data? Will they easily grasp the meaningful patterns in the subject? If details are also important, does your visualization scale to that level in a way that makes sense for the subject and the audience?
Is your visualization interactive? Interactive views allow you to guide the story and are especially helpful when there is too much detail to show all at once. Although interactivity works best online, it can be approximated in print by breaking out information into related visualizations.
Is your visualization beautiful? Beauty influences comprehension. How you present something can determine its usefulness. Visual attributes such as fonts, colors, sizing, orientation of view, scaling of graphic elements and placement of graphic elements have a large impact on the user experience. For an example of WOW! beautiful maps, check out Maps: Visualizing Twitter and Flickr Data.
Tell me, do you think information visualization is the new frontier?
Now it’s your turn: What do you think? Do you use information visualization in your work? Do you generate your designs by software or have a graphic artist create them? I’d really like for you to keep the conversation going by leaving comments. Thanks! Elizabeth Lexleigh LexPower The Write Ideas
Who says a PDF has to be just an e-version of the static printed page? Now you can offer your readers a rich, multimedia experience by including video in your PDF documents. Although many documents could be made more useful and engaging by adding short video segments, customers and users may find such a feature especially helpful in reference guides, how-to tutorials, and training procedures.
Many writers create documents using content-authoring software like Adobe FrameMaker, Microsoft Word, MadCap Flare, or the OpenOffice word processor. As far as I know, all of these companies have a document-to-PDF guide on their website. If you are working with FrameMaker, for example, you’ll find the conversion guide under Resources.
Are you among those who already use video-capture software to create video segments? Then no doubt you are probably familiar with names like SMRecorder, HyperCam, Camtasia Studio, Adobe Captivate, and CamStudio, among others. If you’re new to these (and similar) packages and want to get a feel for what they can offer, take a look at CNET Download.com for reviews of Camtasia Studio as well as links to reviews of the others.
Once you’ve got your document and video files ready to roll, how to munch and crunch everything into one fabulous PDF?
Use Adobe Acrobat 9 Pro (and Extended Pro) or Acrobat X to embed video directly in the PDFs you create. (By the way, if you have ever wondered about embedding a flash file (*.flv or *.swf format) in a PDF, yes, your users will need a flash player to view the file. Fortunately, about 99 percent of internet users already have flash player installed.)
When you create a PDF, Acrobat will allow you to embed the video directly in the PDF file, or embed a link to a remotely hosted video.
Here is an Acrobat X Pro step-by-step guide to inserting rich media into PDF documents.
And here are some links to video tutorials that show the embedding process:
These resources can help you easily learn how to embed videos in PDF files.
At long last, you can turn those ho-hum, static PDFs into media-rich productions that will boost your users up the learning curve.
Now it’s your turn: If you embed videos in PDF files, which packages do you prefer, and why? Have you discovered any pitfalls to avoid? Can you recommend any helpful tips and tricks? Please leave comments to share your thoughts – thanks! Elizabeth Lexleigh LexPower The Write Ideas