Week 5–INFOGRAPHIC MANIA!

This week our first individual projects were due! As you know from previous posts, I did my infographic on cave paintings. As I began to do more intensive research into the project and began thinking about how to conceptualize the information and then how to present it in a visual format, I began looking more into statistics. After I’d gotten a chance to really think through what I wanted from the infographic, I came up with an “ideal” infographic: the one I wanted to make if I had all of the information (and digital media skills!) that I needed.

My ideal infographic was going to unfold as follows: at the top of the page would be a discussion of the locations of cave paintings. Preferably, the indicator in each general location would be a different size or gradient of color depending on how many cave paintings were in that area. For instance, under this system, France would have had either a large indicator (such as the stars I ended up using) or a darker indicator–perhaps a darker green or brown–than those in areas with fewer cave paintings. I wound up creating a simplified, and less data-heavy, version of that in the infographic that I submitted. I was unable to find any single source with statistics or lists of all of the cave painting sites, or even of all of the most famous cave painting sites, so instead my research for this portion involved figuring out what cave painting locations popped up most often in my research, and simply marking the locations of that representative sample of cave painting sites.

The second piece of my data was to be an analysis of how the images differed in different caves or locations. For that piece, I was going to have two graphs, or potentially two data sets interposed on one graph. The two sets of data were going to be what the average occurrence of each image was, with major categories of Animals, Objects, and People, and the different painting styles. As I got further into the research, it became clear that there were few statistical analyses of the relative occurrences of those objects/types, and those that were tended to be for only one cave or one region. I also decided it would be fruitless and overcomplicated to try to represent the different painting styles, so I decided to drop that aspect from the project altogether. It also became increasingly clear that animals were largely the focus of cave paintings, and I was able to find some solid statistical data that I felt confident in, so I decided to reimagine this portion as instead being a graph showing relative occurrence of common animals. Unfortunately, the data set only accounted for 35% of the images, meaning that 65% of the relative occurrences graph was simply labeled Other. I also, after reading a great deal about hunting scenes, decided to use the statistic of 15% hunting scenes to make another graph. I chose to use that statistic because in reading about cave art, a great deal of the material focused on hunting scenes, giving it a disproportional focus within the larger field.

The third part of my ideal infographic was going to be a case-study focus on one or two caves, with a more in-depth look at conditions and cultural perceptions. This section would have been more of a reflection of the modern state of a single cave. I had been planning to do Lascaux, which are the first cave paintings I’d ever heard of, and have graphs showing how visitorship has changed over time, how many people visit the Lascaux website, and other reflections of Lascaux’s place within modern French (it’s in France) and world culture and history. In the final draft of the infographic, I wound up replacing the case study portion with a timeline of the creation of significant cave paintings/sites. I hadn’t known until I really delved into the research that cave paintings had been created over such a long span of time–literally from 40,000 years ago to the 1800s. I chose not to address any cave paintings more recent than about 5,000 years ago, and wound up aligning the cave painting locations from the first part of the infographic with the cave painting time periods, using the location and time period both. I then reorganized the data so it fit in a more linear, sensical way, and boom! Although instead of boom it was more along the lines of repeated Google searches, from “how to change border of artboard in Illustrator” and “how to make graphs in Illustrator” to “I DOUBLE CLICKED AND MY ENTIRE IMAGE DISAPPEARED IN ILLUSTRATOR!!”

All in all, I enjoyed learning about cave paintings, but even more so I enjoyed having to struggle through the data to try to figure out how to represent it, and having to conceptualize information sharing so differently than I ever had before. Also, even though it’s obviously made by a beginner, I made that! It has pictures and colors! Awesome!

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