Week 5: Racial Profiling and Chartjunk


“The Real Face of White Australians,” takes a look at the struggles of non-Europeans who dealt with harsh racism in Australia. Today, I would like to think we live in a place that’s a bit more accepting, but this article got me thinking about the college admissions process and its association with race. Thinking back to filling out college apps around this time two years ago, certain schools only allowed one box to be checked in the ‘ethnicity’ part of their application. Coming from a French dad and a Filipino mom, I found myself a bit confused on how to pick which race to claim an association with. I would do some quick research on the school demographic to see where I could possibly fit into a minority, and ‘Pacific Islander’ emerged as my go-to option. I felt that these online checkboxes were too binding, and portrayed a stigma of racial categorization. As we’ve discussed in class, computers are not fully able to grasp ‘human’ concepts such as race, shown by the inadequacies of the facial detection script from the article. All structures have their imperfections though, and it would be an intriguing argument to see how human intervention would fair in this system. (link 1 + link 2)

Secondly, I wanted to transition over to “Humanities Approaches to Graphical Display,” by Johanna Drucker, which delves into the importance of data visualizations usage in Digital Humanities. The concepts of ‘data’ and ‘capta’ are the driving forces behind data interpretation from a digital scope. Data surrounds us, acting independently without human interpretation, while capta has to be taken and constructed. (link 3)

Drucker stresses why a “graphical expression of interpretation” is so important in the visualization of data. Personally, I can attest that visuals help me learn better than simply staring at a set of numbers. An interesting issue brought up regarding data visualizations is when a creator goes too far in their design of a set of data. If you check out the currently trending BuzzFeed site, some articles have graphs and data sets that are almost indecipherable because of the addition of unnecessary graphics. This has been coined as “Chartjunk,” which refers to all of the visual elements in charts and graphs that aren’t necessary to understand the information the graphs are portraying, Chartjunk distracts the viewer from the necessary information, and shows how data visualization can go horribly awry. I’m definitely going to share this article on how to avoid Chartjunk to my group as we put together our website as part of the final group project. (link 4)