Diagrams for the Masses: Raising Public Awareness – From Neurath to Gapminder and Google Earth

  • Raul Niño Zambrano
  • Yuri Engelhardt
Part of the Lecture Notes in Computer Science book series (LNCS, volume 5223)


In the beginning of the 1920s Austrian philosopher and sociologist Otto Neurath developed a diagrammatic language (Isotype) that uses simplified pictures and composition rules to convey social and economic statistical data to a general public. A current trend in the information visualization community is the presentation and sharing of information graphics via the World Wide Web (e.g. Gapminder, Google Earth Outreach). In 2007, the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to work in which statistical diagrams played a key role in raising public awareness (Al Gore’s campaign concerning the Inconvenient Truth about global warming). In this paper we explore what these recent uses of graphic representations share with Neurath’s idealism about visual education in terms of access to information, empowerment and the assumed benefits of the visual. We also address how digital media have amplified these concepts, and we propose three different categories of ‘diagrams for the masses’.


public awareness statistical graphics Otto Neurath online graphics information visualization 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Raul Niño Zambrano
    • 1
  • Yuri Engelhardt
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Media StudiesUniversity of AmsterdamAmsterdamThe Netherlands

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