Modality and Uncertainty in Data Visualizations: A Corpus Approach to the Use of Connecting Lines

Verena Elisabeth Lechner


In data visualizations, connecting lines may have various semiotic functions, including the semiotic potential of indicating modality and uncertainty. The goal of this article is to find out how this semiotic potential is realized in current best practices of data visualizations and what conventions exist for the visual manifestations of these functions. This issue is addressed by using a corpus-based approach and a two-level analysis method within a social semiotic framework. First, the article offers a theoretical discussion on how the concepts of modality and uncertainty interrelate. Second, a method for investigating how these concepts are visualized at different levels is presented. Third, a corpus analysis including 163 award-winning data visualizations is presented. The results indicate the existence of certain conventions for visual modality markers, and thus offer new insights relevant for both design theory and practice.

One Reply to “DDPC2”

  1. Hi Verena. It was great to read this paper presenting a method for analysing a corpus of diagrams. I think this could be a very useful contribution.
    As you note, Pattern was frequently used as a visual variable (rather than Clarity, Colour, Shape or Dynamics). It also seems to be less common to use Pattern change for purposes other than signalling uncertainty (your Table 3). Conducting the work, did you feel that Pattern change in connecting lines has a fairly specialised probability-signalling role? If so, could you speculate as to why this may be?

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