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From abstract to actual: art and designer‐like enquiries into data visualisation

Michael Hohl (School of Art, Design and Architecture, University of Huddersfield, Huddersfield, UK)


ISSN: 0368-492X

Article publication date: 9 August 2011




The purpose of this paper is to suggest that physiological experience can contribute to the comprehension of visualisation of scientific data, especially artistic approaches.


A number of relevant case studies are used to establish the rationale.


“Objective” or neutral data visualisation does not exist. Every visualisation process relies on human definitions or mediation. Based on this premise, interdisciplinary collaborators can use methods from design and art to actively design the usability of data visualisation together with their perceived aesthetic, ambiguous and imaginative dimensions in order to create a multi‐layered human experience of data.

Research limitations/implications

Physiological engagement in combination with rich, ambiguous experiences are no substitute for scientific data visualisation but an evocative medium for the public communication of science, such as at science centres or science museums.

Practical implications

Clear support of interdisciplinary collaborations and systematic application of methods to create aesthetic experiences from scientific data.

Social implications

Potentially novel, engaging and evocative sensual experiences with data visualisations around themes, such as climate change, sustainability and ecology.


The paper suggests that systematically complementing methods from art and design in order to emotionalise intellectual experiences could be considered an unorthodox yet highly effective novel approach.



Hohl, M. (2011), "From abstract to actual: art and designer‐like enquiries into data visualisation", Kybernetes, Vol. 40 No. 7/8, pp. 1038-1044.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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