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How Do We Know That? Robert Kosara on Data Visualization

Posted: 2/7/2017 (Local Events)

Abstract: We know some things about data visualization, and we don’t know others. But it turns out that many of the things we think we know, we actually don’t. Much of what we believe about charts and visualization is based less on evidence and well-constructed science than we like to believe. Are bar charts always the best choice? Are embellishments bad? Are pie charts really evil? Is animation always distracting? When might it work?

Instead of well-run experiments and real evidence, many supposed rules are based on opinion, aesthetic judgments, and incomplete or oversimplified studies. You wouldn’t exactly know that from the level of conviction with which these things are often stated. In this talk, I will show you that some of the things we just assume to be true are actually wrong, many we don’t know about, and some that are, in fact, correct. But more than that, I want to draw your attention to the fact that there are many things we don’t really know – and show you how important it is to ask, how do we know that?

Robert Kosara is a research scientist at Tableau Software. His focus is on the communication of data through visualization and visual storytelling. Before joining Tableau in 2012, Robert was Associate Professor of Computer Science at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Robert received his MSc and PhD degrees in Computer Science from Vienna University of Technology (Austria). His blog,, is one of the most popular and respected resources on data visualization.

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Date: 02/21/2017

Time: 7:00 PM PT

Location: University of Washington, Kane 110