In this episode we touch upon a tricky question: where is the fine line between taking inspiration from other projects and merely copying them? We discuss with Bryan Connor from The Why Axis and Mahir Yavuz from Seed Scientific.
Note: We suggest you give a look to the links below (under the heading “Cases We Discuss in the Podcast”) before listening to the podcast, most of the episode is centered around these examples we selected for discussion.
00:03:46 Main topic today: inspiration or plagiarism with our guests Mahir M. Yavuz and Bryan Connor
00:07:53 Is data visualization turning into a copycat scene?
00:08:32 Remake of subway map by New Yorker
00:14:03 Idea – technology – aesthetics
00:16:06 Patterns ctd.
00:18:19 Gun murders – drone strikes – meteorites
00:23:19 What constitutes an “outrageous rip-off”?
00:27:31 On originality
00:33:07 Guardian Gay Rights / Gun Laws graphic
00:37:53 On the value of reproduction and chains of inspiration
00:44:01 Stream graphs
00:49:01 Value of transparent documentation of process
00:53:13 Remix culture, github culture
00:54:48 Snow fall
01:01:47 A new language for citation in design?
01:09:36 Closing remarks
Cases We Discuss in the Podcast
New Yorker’s Inequality Subway Map
- Inequality and New York’s Subway (the original)
- Inequality & Mass Transit in the Bay Area
- No Fare Hikes
Periscopic’s Dramatic Animation of Gun Murders
- U.S. Gun Deaths (the original)
- Out of Sight, Out of Mind (drones)
- Bolides (meteorites)
Guardian’s Gay Rights Radial Visualization
- Gay rights in the US, state by state (the original)
- States Take Action on Gun Control
- Gun control in America: A state-by-state breakdown
- The Original ThemeRiver (developed at PNNL) (the original)
- Lee Byron’s Streamgraph
- The Histomap (Four Thousand Years Of World History)
More Examples (not discussed)
- Empires: History’s Largest Empires / Empires Strike Again
- Spotlight Metaphor: Spotlight of Profitability / Health Care Spending in Selected Countries
- Pay Gap Scatter Plot: Why Is Her Paycheck Smaller? / Pay Gap Between Women and Men
Good Related Reads
- The Remixing Dilemma: The Trade-off Between Generativity and Originality
- Andy Kirk’s The fine line between plagiarism and inspiration
- Andrew Gelman’s criticism of gun control radial plot
- Snow Fail: The New York Times And Its Misunderstanding Of Copyright
- Ben Shneiderman et al.’s Innovation Trajectories for Information Visualizations: Comparing Treemaps, Cone Trees, and Hyperbolic Trees (on the commercial success/failure of some visualization techniques)
- Stephen Few’s Bullet Graph
- Edward Tufte’s Sparklines
Thanks a lot to Bryan and Mahir for this intense, controversial and funny chat!
Enrico and Moritz.
Jazz trumpet legend Clark Terry once described learning that craft as “imitation, assimilation, innovation”. We all start with imitation, consciously or not. (In jazz it is actually encouraged as a learning method.) Then we absorb the underlying technique or principle. Then we make it our own.
The challenge for both jazz and viz is that they have an audience all through the learning process, some of whom will recognize the use of imitation, some will not.
You can’t avoid imitating, and you can’t wait for the entire learning process to be complete to practice your craft – especially since the process is never complete, learning opens more questions, infinitely. So just be as honest and clear as you can with your audience and yourself.
Very good point John! I like the parallel with Jazz. I think the main point is, as you said, being totally honest with yourself and the others whenever you put something out.
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