A [Blog] Given Form

Let’s talk a bit about chickens.1

Chickens are a vital part of Mississippi’s economy, being the largest agribusiness sector 14 years running. This includes broilers and eggs (Cal-Maine, based in Jackson, produces about a quarter of all eggs in the US). Thus, better understanding chickens and their health should be important to the State. Visualization and visual data science can assist in this search for understanding as it has for other domains. At Mississippi State University, we have had some success using visual data science to improve our understanding of chickens and other animals; further funding could extend this knowledge. Increased support for visualization by the state of Mississippi is thus not just important to science but vital to our economy.2

See what I did there? Starting from a position related to science (“Mississippi should increase science funding, especially with respect to visual data science”), I built up a few succint bits of evidence to argue for the position. In this super abbreviated form, I do not spend any time on the direct science—-no discussion of why hue was an appropriate encoding for the sequence browser—-but I did tie the motivaiton to something the audience (a hypothetical state Representitive) would be interested in. Fundamentally, this snippet is about communication, specifically scientific communication.

This example about chickens comes from my experience at the “Science: Becoming the Messenger” workshop from the National Science Foundation and its followup from Ninja Communciations. These workshops aimed at turning scientists—-experts in fields possibly esoteric—-into communicators. Such is also the goal of Robert Kosara and Noeska Smit’s repeated Visualization Blogging Meetups at IEEE VIS: To amplify the voices speaking about visualization, visual analysis, and visual data science. Fundamentally, that is the purpose of Information Wants to Be Seen: To communicate.

As a professor, I wear three hats: I teach, I do research, and I perform service for the greater community. As a teacher, I must communicate the core ideas within each course. As a researcher, I must clearly diseminate and justify my work to peers. And, as a scientist, it is my duty to explain myself in the public to educate and inform. Thus, this blog will talk about my teaching or expound upon visualization concepts. It will share my research results or summarize other work I find interesting or important. And I’ll probably throw in a Mass Effect reference or three, because we all have other interests.3

So, welcome to Information Wants to be Seen. Let’s communicate!4


  1. This is not where I talk about my favorite thing about chickens (that they see four dimensions of color). Its a fun fact for parties. 

  2. There is a video, but the audio track we recorded is nails-on-the-chalkboard horrible. You can ask me about it (bring earplugs).  

  3. This post’s title is a reference to a different sci-fi series, this one on TV.  

  4. Probably by Twitter or email because comment sections are more work than I want at this point.