Data visualization: Beneficial but perilous

There’s something about data visualizations that make people trust them more than they should.
Just ask engineer and data scientist Pete Warden. He created and published a data visualization that used public Facebook profiles to draw conclusions about regionalism in the U.S. and was surprised at its reception.
“A New York Times columnist used it as evidence that the U.S. was perilously divided,” he wrote recently in a blog post about his data visualization, first published a couple years ago. “White supremacists dug into the tool to show that Juan was more popular than John in Texan border towns, and so the country was on the verge of being swamped by Hispanics.”
That’s not exactly what he’d planned. His visualization wasn’t meant to be regarded as repeatable scientific research of the kind that’s been peer reviewed, he said.

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