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Beautiful Data by Toby Segaran, Jeff Hammerbacher

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Reflection and Conclusion

We have argued that the beauty in data lies in its depth. Beauty emerges as previously hidden structures and patterns are revealed. These patterns prompt new thoughts and questions about the data. They inspire. They encourage exploration. They provide insight. Where they are spatial, geographic beauty may emerge.

Beautiful data encourages beautiful visualization, as it also encourages exploration and rewards the viewer who explores. Visualization is particularly apt for exploring geographic patterns, as centuries of cartography have demonstrated.

The examples we present here show how we can use beautiful data such as the geographs of Geograph to address the description of place with a view to using such descriptions in an applied context for information management and retrieval. Sophisticated and data-dense graphics with aesthetic appeal are an important part of this process.

We broadly consider beauty to be a characteristic of an entity that provides pleasure, meaning, or satisfaction. In terms of data and its representation, various aspects of Geograph have these qualities. Our visualization of some facets of Geograph in space-filling graphics with high data/location ratios is innovative, creative, and has a problem-solving basis. It has helped inform our colleagues' work and opened new analytical avenues. We would put forward these data-dense depictions of the people's descriptions of the human and physical geography of the British Isles in time and place ...

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