Sunday, March 23, 2014

Perspectives on Infographics and The Guerilla Girls

Infographics are an integral part of conveying information within our society and so it is important to know how Infographics can potentially be misleading. From the reading on Infographics, the author explains how charts can lie, and how "even if the original data is good, your graphical representation of the data may not be" (11). Below are two graphs taken from different FOX News broadcasts which show extremely misleading information:
Figure 1 : Misleading Cost of Gas
In Figure 1, we can see how the bottom scale of the graph jumps from last year, to last week, to current. This is by no means an accurate time-frame to make a line graph out of, and so while the graph shows an increase in the cost of gas over time, it really isn't saying anything meaningful in terms of statistical data. Perhaps "last week" had particularly high gas prices, and "current" could mean literally anything from one week later to years later. Not only this, but the Y axis only measures 10 cents per line, making a small increase appear to be a huge jump when it's really not.
Figure 2: Misleading Unemployment Rates
Figure 3: Unemployment Rates with Indicator lines
In Figures 2 and 3, you can see directly with the added lines how the data is not portrayed correctly on the graph, as 8.6% is literally adjacent to 9.0%. In all of these graphs, the creator is manipulating the Y axis to make the change seem more significant than it actually is.

Prompt 1: Misleading Infographics are still a big problem in society, so for discussion, can you find any other examples of ways in which Infographics are being used to portray skewed or false information? In what other ways might Infographics be particularly harmful and/or helpful to society? Could Fox News be misrepresenting the data to promote a certain political ideology?


The Guerrilla Girls is a movement composed of female artists who fight for equality in the art world. Often, the posters they create are meant to incite a certain political or social ideaology pertaining to the status of female artists in a largely patriarchal society. From the reading on Guerrilla Girls, “The famous query by feminist artists and art historians goes, ‘Why haven’t there been more great women artists throughout Western history?’ The Guerrilla Girls want to restate the question: ‘Why haven’t more women been considered great artists throughout Western History?” Below are two Guerrilla Girl images.


Figure 4 - Michele Bachmann

In Figure 4, we see an image of Michele Bachmann with a caption that reads, “Even Michele Bachmann believes we all have the same civil rights” with an equal sign covering her mouth. The overall message seems to be calling for an equality that the person on the poster claims to exist, that clearly doesn’t.


Figure 5 - Guerilla Girl

Figure 5 shows a picture of a nude model wearing a gorilla mask. The caption suggests that women artists are under-appreciated and yet a vast majority of art depicting the naked human body are of women. The implication is then that even in the art world, women are seen as objects in a patriarchal society, something that the Guerrilla Girls aspire to change

Prompt 2: In Figure 4, what do you see as the overall message? Do you think there is something oppressive about the “equal” sign and where it is situated in the image, and if so do you think that it creates something contradictory? In other words, is the implication of “shutting out” Michele Bachmann contradictory of equality in sense of free speech? Feel free to share any other examples images that seem to incite messages of equality, specifically in terms of gender.

16 comments:

  1. An EDM EnthusiastMarch 24, 2014 at 5:29 AM

    (Posting as Justin Loranger, because Discus messed up my sign in)

    Prompt 1: In this infographic, the research attempts to show the reader (pun intended) about the Top 10 most read books in the world.

    The issue here is that with bar graphs, you assume that the bottom left is the start of the Y-Axis, thus making The Holy Bible look as if it is read only about twice as much as some of the lesser read books. The Y-Axis is actually in the middle of the graph, starting halfway up. That makes the 27 million people that have read Anne Frank's Diary look MUCH smaller than the 3.9 billion that have read (maybe not in its entirety) the Holy Bible. This can be harmful because people may assume that more people have read the educated novels towards the right side (opinion driven of course), but also that it is assumed that the person has read the entire book. Reading the entire Holy Bible takes a lot longer than Anne Frank's Diary, and it is questionable that 3.9 billion people have read their way through all of it.

    On the topic of Fox News, I think Fox News is garbage. They have reported false data before and even royally fucked up (pardon my language) when they released pictures of the wrong suspects for the Boston Marathon bombing, to which those two international students received death threats. They have also publicly screwed up reports online and on TV and then tried to cover it up, but much to their dismay, Steven Colbert and John Stewart mocked them on their respective shows and watched as Fox would still deny messing up reports. They do have an agenda and with the amount of money in corporations, I wouldn't doubt that the place where some of their funding is coming from is pushing an agenda onto them. They also try shock tactics to gain more views, even if it is for all of the wrong reasons.

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  2. And some of these 7 points about misinformation were posted by Fox News (and CNN too)

    http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2013/04/boston-marathon-bombing-fact-fiction

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  3. It is honestly so irritating that Fox News is still considered a serious source of information to many Americans. Their distorted views and misleading infographics are damaging not only because of how inaccurate they are, but that they are being approved by supervisors to air on national television. False information is toxic and can skew an uneducated person's perspective. Fox News does this because they are a watered down "news source", BUT the station manages to rank higher than BBC and CNN. Idiots like Bill O'Reilly shout to get their points across and diminish professional reporting. Justin, I am commenting on your post because this stuff annoys me so much too. Its horrifying that Fox can use misleading data without any consequences.

    __________________________

    IMAGE ONE: "Map showing Egypt in the Middle East"

    IMAGE TWO: "Poll Results that Add Up to 193% of Voters"

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  4. An EDM EnthusiastMarch 25, 2014 at 6:03 PM

    (As Justin Loranger), this was another hilariously incorrect infographic.

    Not only does it contain spelling and grammar errors, but for start-up companies, are they inferring that the chicken means "which came first, the chicken or the egg"? There is a blatant mislabeling in the image too as it does not denote "millions" on the "fewer than 10 employees" section too.

    http://static.guim.co.uk/sys-images/Guardian/Pix/pictures/2013/12/18/1387369506221/Tumblr_photo.png

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  5. Justin & Erika, you both bring up really great points and examples of the way FOX news presents these completely biased and untrue infographics. I agree, it is infuriating that they are considered such a credible news source when they have proved themselves countless times not to be through examples like the ones above. What bothers me particularly is how little effort they seem to put into making up these fake/biased infographics, and certain people still buy into anyways. If you know anything about infographics, it's easy to see how skewed these are with just a quick glance. Is there any reason you can think of as to why they are able to continuously do this and get away with it, with their reptutation seemingly unscathed? Are there any other networks that present false infographics as blatantly as FOX does? I'm honestly not sure myself, but when I was reading about skewed Infographics FOX news was the first thing that came to my mind.

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  6. Justin, thanks for sharing this, I got a good laugh when I looked at this. It's hard to believe someone put this infographic into the public eye with all the mistakes and things which are unclear about it. I'm honestly not even sure what this infographic is trying to say, are they showing percentages of how many employees someone should have when they are starting a company? The amount of information that this infographic does NOT provide is staggering.

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  7. Personally, I believe they are able to get away with false information because it is not illegal to to distort news in the United States. If our nation was more strict on the media due then we would have more reliable news sources. Modern media holds so much power over this country, but the Amendments to protect freedom of press has severely damaged the country's view or lack of politics/current events. The people who buy into Fox News are either extremely anti-Obama or people who claim they "do not know any better". Fox is also part of a massive of two publicly traded companies instead of just one. Fox used to be solely under News Corp; however, it is now under 21st Century Fox AND another News Corp. So, it is probably really difficult to take down an entire news station unfortunately. Sorry if this sounded rant-ish too. Fox News just always has me rolling my eyes!

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  8. Matthew HannafordMarch 27, 2014 at 9:57 AM

    Yeah, I don't understand what this is trying to say either, it's supposed to be an infographic, yet looks like something out of a children's book! Justin, do you have any thoughts about your example's overall message?

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  9. Found this infographic online that sort of looks like whoever made it didn't even try. Even though the democratic numbers are higher than the Republican numbers, it's blown way out of proportion. The length of each bar stays the same even though the numbers change. Really misleading.

    http://media.smashingmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/04/dem-rep.png

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  10. I would disagree that the Mercator maps function is to say that countries in the north are superior or more important than those in the south. The Mercator map is interesting because there is a valid explanation for why the countries are distorted. The map was initially created to be used in a maritime situation to aid the navigation of sailors by displaying Rhumb lines, something used in naval navigation and displayed on globes as curved lines, on a two dimensional map that retains the accuracy of a 3D globe. To do this, the Mercator map takes these curved lines and turns them into straight lines that form a parallel and perpendicular grid that retains the navigational practicalities of the curved lines on the globe. The side effect of taking these curved lines and making them 2D is that it distorts the sizes of the countries on the map, making the areas near each pole much much larger than they actually are. This map isn't dismissed because the naval use of this map outweighs the misrepresentations they put forth, and it is still used by the US Navy today!

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  11. Brittany AndersenMarch 27, 2014 at 6:47 PM

    Hi everyone,

    After reading your comments, I began to question Fox News' rhetorical situation. You all mention that Fox News frequently broadcasts information before any other stations, even though their initial reports and infographics are often deemed inaccurate.

    In thinking of this, do you think that Fox News’ target audience is different than news stations such as BBC and CNN? Could Fox News be advertising their news station to viewers only looking for quick tidbits of information versus those searching for thorough, grounded documentaries?

    -Brittany

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  12. Brittany, I think you are making a great point by considering the audience of Fox News. By releasing things quickly, rather than focusing on the accuracy or the full story of what they are reporting, they are able to be the first to "have the scoop." Unfortunately, they are not accurate stories or are otherwise incomplete pieces of a story that is important to be told as a whole.
    I do think that viewers looking for a "recap" of current events and local, as well as international news, would be more likely to tune into Fox, partly because they are the first to run many stories. That way, these people feel like they are in the know, when actually they are being misguided or otherwise lied to about what is going on, whether it be an international affair or the weather.

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  13. This is not only extremely vague, but also poorly done. Although I am not quite sure what this is trying to communicate, I would assume that the top left should read "what stage startup should I choose" not "startut." If this is the case, it would be completely ridiculous to think that a start up company, or farm as it appears to be, would have anywhere close to 5 million employees. In fact, you would think it would be 100% of startups have less than 5 million employees...

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  14. Brittany AndersenMarch 27, 2014 at 7:14 PM

    Hi Professor Vinson,

    I think the "upside down" world map is very interesting!

    Although the map is "upside down" to most viewers, do you think it is an accurate infographic? Or would it be considered invalid because its orientation differs from the map commonly used for directions and geography?

    -Brittany

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  15. Looking at Prompt 1- I found this infographic that looks seemingly accurate and informative; however, if you look more closely, you can see that the y-axis doesn't have the zero value at the bottom of the image, but instead, it is directly in the center of the graphic. This is extremely misleading and although the Bible does seem to triumph far over the other books, this image creates an even more staggering difference that is just simply false.

    It is absurd how such simple information can be manipulated to get across certain platforms. Do you think that this image could be used as a tool for someone promoting Christianity or an otherwise religious platform? I would take into consideration that many people have not studied visual rhetoric.

    Why would such seemingly unimportant, but interesting information need to be manipulated in this way? What do you think prompted the creator of this infographic to arrange the information in this way?

    Photo from- http://www.datarevelations.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/BookShelf.jpg

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  16. Haha this is absurd! I agree with everyone's opinions, and it makes me nervous that the media can so easily manipulate information into something suggestive of false ideas and impressions on viewers. It's terribly concerning that our number one source of information can manipulate the minds of the majority of people watching. News is where the people are informed about what is happening in the world. If we're constantly lead to believe things that aren't true through the images presented to us, this is going to inevitably create problems in society. Accuracy and truth need to be more carefully depicted in all forms of media :)

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