Friday, February 20, 2009

The Visual Display of the Credit Crisis

I make no secret of the fact that I'm no wizard when it comes to financial matters, just an absent-minded professor, good with words, not so much with numbers. So when several folks I follow on Twitter all tweeted about this video visualization of the credit crisis, my first reaction was, meh! But I do have an interest in the general topic of the visual display of information, and how form influences meaning--see, for example, my previous post about power point: PowerPoint, What's the Point?

So, I'm going to present you with this video created by Jonathan Jarvis, which is an example of a thoughtful and relatively effective use of dynamic iconic visuals to explain a complex topic. Of course, it is also good to get a better handle on the financial crisis itself, and I can tell you that this video has helped me to understand what happened better. Of course, ignorance is bliss, so you might not want to watch this after all. The text under the video below comes courtesy of Jarvis, I should add.

The Crisis of Credit Visualized from Jonathan Jarvis on Vimeo.

The Short and Simple Story of the Credit Crisis.

The goal of giving form to a complex situation like the credit crisis is to quickly supply the essence of the situation to those unfamiliar and uninitiated. This project was completed as part of my thesis work in the Media Design Program, a graduate studio at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California.

For more on my broader thesis work exploring the use of new media to make sense of a increasingly complex world, visit

A last word from our sponsor, Blog Time Passing, that is, from me. Neil Postman often argued against using visual aids, because he considered words a superior intellectual medium in comparison to images. But he also was critical of the use of numbers and statistics as a rhetorical device, of the tendency to automatically confer authority upon them in an uncritical manner. In this instance, I think we have an appropriate use of visuals to explain a complex situation involving quantitative factors, and I think that Neil would agree that this video neither amuses nor informs us to death.

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