DATA476-19S2 (C) Semester Two 2019

Special Topic: Information is Beautiful

15 points

Start Date: Monday, 15 July 2019
End Date: Sunday, 10 November 2019
Withdrawal Dates
Last Day to withdraw from this course:
  • Without financial penalty (full fee refund): Friday, 26 July 2019
  • Without academic penalty (including no fee refund): Friday, 27 September 2019


This course will introduce students to the truthful art of visualizing data. The students will use an iterative design process to create visualizations that are truthful, functional, beautiful, insightful and enlightening. The lectures will consist of presentations, critiques, in-class exercises and discussions. This course will enable students to select appropriate visualization methods for their data and solve practical data science communication problems. They will consider the context and the indented reader to focus the story their data will tell. The students will learn to use the Tableau software, which will be made available for their own computers within the framework of this course. The course will provide a supportive environment in which students can experiment with the aesthetics of data visualization. Students will need to be familiar with basic data manipulation principles and the process of data gathering and cleaning.

Learning Outcomes

University Graduate Attributes

This course will provide students with an opportunity to develop the Graduate Attributes specified below:

Critically competent in a core academic discipline of their award

Students know and can critically evaluate and, where applicable, apply this knowledge to topics/issues within their majoring subject.

Employable, innovative and enterprising

Students will develop key skills and attributes sought by employers that can be used in a range of applications.

Globally aware

Students will comprehend the influence of global conditions on their discipline and will be competent in engaging with global and multi-cultural contexts.


Subject to approval of the Head of Department of Mathematics and Statistics.

Course Coordinator

For further information see Mathematics and Statistics Head of Department

Dr. Christoph Bartneck is an associate professor and director of postgraduate studies at the HIT Lab NZ of the University of Canterbury. He has a background in Industrial Design and Human-Computer Interaction, and his projects and studies have been published in leading journals, newspapers, and conferences. His interests lie in the fields of Human-Computer Interaction, Science and Technology Studies, and Visual Design.

He has worked for several international organizations including the Technology Centre of Hannover (Germany), LEGO (Denmark), Eagle River Interactive (USA), Philips Research (Netherlands), ATR (Japan), and The Eindhoven University of Technology (Netherlands). Christoph is an associate editor of the International Journal of Social Robotics, the International Journal of Human Computer Studies and Entertainment Computing Journal. Christoph is a member of the New Zealand Institute for Language Brain & Behavior, ACM SIGCHI, The New Zealand Association Of Scientists and Academic Freedom Aotearoa.

The press regularly reports on his work, including the New Scientist, Scientific American, Popular Science, Wired, New York Times, The Times, BBC, Huffington Post, Washington Post, The Guardian, and The Economist.

Additional Course Outline Information

Assessment and grading system

This course consists of lectures and small hand-on assignments. You are encouraged to use the Tableau software for most assignments. The data sets necessary for the assignments will be provided. Four out of 10 assignments will be graded. Assignments will be graded on:

• Truthful: is it based on thorough and honest research
• Functional: is it an accurate depiction and can the audience draw meaningful conclusions
• Beautiful: is it aesthetically pleasing
• Insightful: does the visualisation reveal evidence that would be difficult to see otherwise
• Enlightening: does it change the mind of the audience

Attendance and participation in exercises posted on Learn contribute 20% to the final grade.
The students will be given four assignments that each are count for 20% of the final grade.


By default there will be a no-screens policy during the lectures. This means that you are not allowed to open your laptop or use your mobile device. For specific tasks the students will be asked to use their laptop computer to complete in lectures tasks. During the lab hours the students are encouraged to bring their devices to work on their assignments.

Late submission of work

All submissions for assignments will be done trough Learn and must be completed before the deadlines setup in Learn.


Week 1
In this week you will receive an overview of the process, tools, and principles necessary for a successful data visualization. We will discuss first successful example of data visualization. The first ungraded assignment is to visualize the solar system. As an extra you are encouraged to watch Donald Norman’s TED talk.

Week 2
In this week we will discuss the different visualisation types and how they should be used for different data types. We will talk about raw data visualisation and summaries of data. We will then discuss the use of Typography. The second ungraded assignment is visualize the publications of the University of Canterbury. As an extra you are encouraged to watch Neil Halloran’s “The Fallen of World War II”.

Week 3
In this week we will discuss basic charts, such as bar and line charts. We will then discuss the use of color in visualisations including color models and composition. You will learn how to connect Tableau to an online SQL database. The third graded assignment is to visualize LEGO colors. As and extra you are encouraged to read about the history of the LEGO colors.

Week 4
In this week we will discuss area charts and the labelling of charts. We will walk through an example of processing data with Tableau Prep and Tableau Desktop. As an example we will use New Zealand crime statistics. The fourth assignment is about visualizing summary statistics on LEGO parts and sets. As an extra you are encouraged to watch Jess Gibson’ documentary on AFOLs.

Week 5
In this week we will discuss how to communicate uncertainty and what challenges we are facing in communicating with the general public in particular in with groups that are immune to rational arguments. For the fifth assignment you need to watch the Nye vs. Ham debate on “Is Creation A Viable Model of Origins”. You will have to name and discuss three rhetorical methods that Nye used to in the debate with Ham. As an extra you are encouraged to read Tim Dare article “Disagreement Over Vaccination Programmes: Deep Or Merely Complex and Why Does It Matter?”

Week 6
In this week we will talk about using maps to put data into a geological context. You will learn how to publish a data story online. We will use the churches in Christchurch as an example. For the sixth graded assignment you need to visualize the University of Canterbury’s publications across time and summarize your story online. As an extra you are invited to transform historical data from the Vietnam war into a modern format.

Week 7
In this week we will discuss the Metaphysics of Quality to better understand the relationship between the designer and information. For the seventh assignment you need to visualize how people meet and stay together. As an extra you are encouraged to watch Adam Curtis’ “The Trap” documentary.

Week 8
In this week you will learn how to use Tableau to create dashboards that help users to maintain an overview of data. For the eight graded assignment you will be asked to map religious organizations across New Zealand. As an extra you are encouraged to watch Richard Dawkins’ “The God Delusion” documentary.

Week 9
In this week you will learn about how to communicate science to the general public and to the media. For the ninth assignment you will be asked to re-design the nutrition panel for food packages. We are going to have a guest lecture by an expert on nutrition. As an extra you are encouraged to watch John Oliver’s “Scientific Studies” argument.

Week 10
In this week we will discuss the design of Infographics. We will focus on communication strategies, composition and readability.  For the tenth graded assignment you will need to visualize the career criteria for academics based on the publication data available. The final extra will be a podcast episode entitled “Advise for the young at heart”.

Week 11
There will be no lectures or labs this week.  There is no assignment this week.

Week 12
In this final session the students will present their results of the tenth assignment.

Indicative Fees

Domestic fee $1,002.00

* Fees include New Zealand GST and do not include any programme level discount or additional course related expenses.

For further information see Mathematics and Statistics.

All DATA476 Occurrences

  • DATA476-19S1 (C) Semester One 2019 - Not Offered
  • DATA476-19S2 (C) Semester Two 2019