"Picturing Democracy: How the Visualization of Data Promoted the Free Exchange of Ideas in Democratic Society" (The 2019 Banks Memorial Lecture)

Tuesday, March 26, 3:30 pm to 5 pm
163 A/B Student Union (Discovery Room)
Current Students
The public


Speaker: Dr. Lydia Patton, Professor, Dept. of Philosophy, Virginia Polytechnic Institute

Topic: “Picturing Democracy: How the Visualization of Data Promoted the Free Exchange of Ideas in Democratic Society”

Abstract: Marie and Otto Neurath were a husband and wife team who incorporated graphic design and social interests into their intellectual work. They worked with artists including their friend Gerd Arntz to develop a pictorial language for statistics called Isotype. You have seen it before. For instance, Isotype is used in news articles to present budget statistics using small dollar sign icons, or population statistics using small icons of human beings. The picture language they developed was meant to explain features of life to the public, so that people would be able to understand current events in order to be able to react to them more effectively.  The work of Marie and Otto Neurath was strongly democratic, in the sense that they thought the public should be able to reason accurately and effectively about problems that concern them, rather than reserving public decision-making to an elite class. The Neuraths were among the first defenders of public and open research, and of scholars communicating their research to the broadest audience possible. Their lives are strong examples of how universities and researchers can conceive of themselves as, as Otto Neurath put it, "trustees of the public".

For information, contact
Ava Chamberlain
Chair, Depts. of Religion, Philosophy, and Classics

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