Editors’ Choice: Visualizing Algorithms

Visualizing Algorithms

The power of the unaided mind is highly overrated… The real powers come from devising external aids that enhance cognitive abilities.
Donald Norman

Algorithms are a fascinating use case for visualization. To visualize an algorithm, we don’t merely fit data to a chart; there is no primary dataset. Instead there are logical rules that describe behavior. This may be why algorithm visualizations are so unusual, as designers experiment with novel forms to better communicate. This is reason enough to study them.

But algorithms are also a reminder that visualization is more than a tool for finding patterns in data. Visualization leverages the human visual system to augment human intellect: we can use it to better understand these important abstract processes, and perhaps other things, too.

This is an adaption of my talk at Eyeo 2014. A video of the talk is available on Vimeo.

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This content was selected for Digital Humanities Now by Editor-in-Chief Amanda Morton based on nominations by Editors-at-Large: Victoria Ehrlich, Angela Zhou, Matthew Lincoln, Elizabeth Kelly, Stephanie Beck Cohen, Daniel Petry, Erica Ellingson Baumle, and Cinzia Pusceddu-Gangarosa, as well as Christof Schöch and Sheila Morrissey on Twitter