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Free Information Visualization MOOC Designed to Illustrate Data

Indiana University’s Katy Börner, the Victor H. Yngve Professor of Information Science at the School of Library and Information Science and an international leader in information visualization, will offer a free massive open online course on the topic beginning Jan. 22.

Börner is curator of the internationally traveled Places & Space: Mapping Science exhibit and author of the Atlas of Science: Visualizing What We Know, published in 2010 by The MIT Press. She specializes in the study of the structure and evolution of scientific disciplines, the analysis and visualization of online activity, and the development of cyberinfrastructures for large-scale scientific collaboration and computation.

The course will run seven weeks from the start date, with a target audience of graduate students able to work three to six hours per week. Anyone interested in generating temporal, geospatial, topical or network analyses and visualizations from either personal or professional data would benefit from the course.

Personal data like bank statements, email activity and friendship networks, or business data like Twitter activity, funding statistics and return-on-investment data, can each provide the information needed to then identify trends, geospatial distributions, topical coverage and previously unrecognized informational links, Börner said.

“The visualization framework I teach and the tools that students will use in the course help answering ‘when,’ ‘where,’ ‘what’ and ‘with whom’ questions,” she said. “The resulting visualizations aim to improve daily decision-making; they are not just eye candy. One goal of the course is to empower a large audience to design insightful visualizations.”

The homepage for the Information Visualization MOOC offers an introductory video, a course schedule, biographies of Börner and the other instructors, and a registration link. Everybody who registers gains free access to the Scholarly Database (26 million paper, patent and grant records) and the Sci2 Tool (100-plus algorithms and tools).

It is one of the first MOOCs offered by IU and the first to offer an opportunity for students to work in teams with actual clients like researchers interested in understanding data patterns and trends, government agencies developing visual interfaces for data holdings, industry representatives looking to maximize return on investment, medical doctors seeking cures, and not-for-profit organizations hoping to communicate impacts and achievements.

“Data mining and visualization skills are best acquired by working on projects that make a difference,” Börner argues. “To be successful, students must care about and understand a client’s needs, become intimately familiar with the data available to address this need, and apply the best algorithms and tools to design effective workflows that render data into insight.”

Information visualization continues to broaden its reach from computer science and human-computer interaction into fields like drug discovery, financial analysis and scientific research. Later this month, Börner will attend the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos-Klosters, Switzerland, to give a talk titled “Visualizing What We Know” using a 26-foot-wide display wall. She will also speak on the topic “Dangerous Visualizations: Big Data Is Watching You” as part of a panel session on “Reinforcing Critical Infrastructure With Cyber Experts.”

For more information or to speak with Börner, please contact Steve Chaplin, IU Communications, at 812-856-1896 or stjchap@iu.edu.

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