digital.monkey

« back  next »

This project attempts to demonstrate how our perception can be fooled by false display of quantitative data.
The effects shown are based on Edward R. Tufte’s theory of data driven graphics [see: 1,2].

Mr. Monkey – a toy monkey stuffed with motion sensors and a wireless link – is the interface to manipulate the display of the data.

If the Mr. Monkey is happy, the graphic tells the truth.
If Mr. Monkey gets sad, the graphic starts to lie.

If the user mistreats the monkey, the visualisation is gradually transforming from accurate to inaccurate, by tweaking parameters of the 3D visualisation. Ultimately, the the graphic lies to the viewer and thereby blurs the information content of the underlying data set.

“The representation of Numbers, as physically measured on the surface of the graphic itself, should be directly proportional to the numerical quantities represented.” [1 p.56]

The violation of this principle leads to a graphic misrepresentation that can be measured by the Lie Factor [1 p.57ff]:

Edward Tufte states:
“If the Lie Factor is equal to one, the graphic might be doing a reasonable job of accurately representing the underlying numbers. Lie Factors greater than 1.05 or less than 0.95 indicate substantial distortion, far beyond minor inaccuracies in plotting. [...] The representation of Numbers as measured on the surface of the graphic itself, should be directly proportional to the numerical quantities represented.” [1 p.56]

Screenshots




In the above screenshots, the underlying data – a 2 dimensional time based series – stays consistent over time. Its graphical representation, however, changes over time as Mr. Monkeys gets upset. Thereby introducing lies to the visualisation.

Making of the monkey


No actual monkeys were harmed during the production of this work.

Recommended reading

[1] Tufte, Edward R. “The Visual Display Of Quantitative Information”
[2] Tufte, Edward R. “Visual Explanation”
[3] Bertin, Jaques “Semiology Of Graphics”
[4] Playfair, William “The Statistical Breviary”